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Field Artillery



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Major General David Ewing Ott



1 4 1977

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Ott, David Ewing
Field artillery, 1954-73.
(Vietnam studies)

Includes index.

Supt. of Docs.: D 101.74:F45/954-73

1. Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975. 2. United States. Army. Field

artillery—History. I. Title. II. Series.
U742.087 959.704'342 75-619336

First Printing

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office

Washington, D.C. 20402 - Price $3.10 (paper cover)

Stock Number 008-020-00556-8


The United States Army met an unusually complex challenge

in Southeast Asia. In conjunction with the other services, the Army
fought in support of a national policy of assisting an emerging na­
tion to develop governmental processes of its own choosing, free of
outside coercion. In addition to the usual problems of waging
armed conflict, the assignment in Southeast Asia required superim­
posing the immensely sophisticated tasks of a modern army upon
an underdeveloped environment and adapting them to demands
covering a wide spectrum. These involved helping to fulfill the
basic needs of an agrarian population, dealing with the frustrations
of antiguerrilla operations, and conducting conventional campaigns
against well-trained and determined regular units.
It is still necessary for the Army to continue to prepare for
other challenges that may lie ahead. While cognizant that history
never repeats itself exactly and that no army ever profited from
trying to meet a new challenge in terms of the old one, the Army
nevertheless stands to benefit immensely from a study of its ex­
perience, its shortcomings no less than its achievements.
Aware that some years must elapse before the official histories
will provide a detailed and objective analysis of the experience in
Southeast Asia, we have sought a forum whereby some of the more
salient aspects of that experience can be made available now. At
the request of the Chief of Staff, a representative group of senior
officers who served in important posts in Vietnam and who still
carry a heavy burden of day-to-day responsibilities have prepared a
series of monographs. These studies should be of great value in
helping the Army develop future operational concepts while at the
same time contributing to the historical record and providing the
American public with an interim report on the performance of men
and officers who have responded, as others have through our history,
to exacting and trying demands.
The reader should be reminded that most of the writing was
accomplished while the war in Vietnam was at its peak, and the
monographs frequently refer to events of the past as if they were
taking place in the present.

All monographs in the series are based primarily on official

records, with additional material from published and unpublished

secondary works, from debriefing reports and interviews with key
participants, and from the personal experience of the author. To
facilitate security clearance, annotation and detailed bibliography
have been omitted from the published version; a fully documented
account with bibliography is filed with the U.S. Army Center of
Military History.

The qualifications of Major General David Ewing Ott to write

Field Artillery, 1954-1973, are considerable. He served in combat
with field artillery units in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In
World War II he was a forward observer with the 868th Field
Artillery Battalion of the 65th Infantry Division, and during the
Korean War he was executive officer and operations officer of the
64th Field Artillery Battalion of the 25th Infantry Division. In
Vietnam he served as executive officer of II Field Force Artillery in
1966 and as commander of the 25th Infantry Division Artillery
in 1967. Other assignments that make him particularly qualified to
write the monograph include instructor of field artillery gunnery
at the Field Artillery School from 1948 to 1951; S-3, 82d Airborne
Division Artillery, 1957 to 1959; commander of the 2d Howitzer
Battalion of the 83d Artillery from 1959 to 1960; Chief, Artillery
Branch, Officer Personnel Directorate, Office of Personnel Opera­
tions, Department of the Army; and Director, Vietnam Task Force,
International Security Affairs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of
Defense. General Ott is presently the Commanding General, U.S.
Army Field Artillery Center, and Commandant, U.S. Army Field
Artillery School, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He is thus the Army's
senior field artilleryman.

Washington, D.C. VERNE L. BOWERS

15 March 1975 Major General, USA
The Adjutant General


This monograph will illuminate some of the more important

activities—with attendant problems, shortcomings, and achieve­
ments—of the U.S. Army Field Artillery in Vietnam. The wide
variations in terrain, supported forces, density of cannon, friendly
population, and enemy activity which prevailed throughout South
Vietnam tend to make every action and every locale singular.
Though based largely upon documents of an historical nature
and organized in a generally chronological manner, this study does
not purport to provide the precise detail of history. Its purpose is to
present an objective review of the near past in order to assure
current awareness, on the part of the Army, of the lessons we should
have learned and to foster the positive consideration of those lessons
in the formulation of appropriate operational concepts. My hope is
that this monograph will give the reader an insight into the im­
mense complexity of our operations in Vietnam. 1 believe it cannot
help but reflect also the unsurpassed professionalism of the junior
officers and noncommissioned officers of the Field Artillery and the
outstanding morale and esprit de corps of the young citizen-soldiers
with whom they served.
I would like to express my appreciation to the following people
who assisted in this effort:
Major General Roderick Wetherill, as commandant of the Field
Artillery School, authored the monograph from November 1972
until his retirement in May 1973, when authorship was transferred
to me. To General Wetherill go my sincere thanks for getting this
project off the ground. Under his direction the initial outline was
developed, a research team formed, and initial research conducted.
Major General Gordon Sumner, Jr., presently with the Office of
the Assistant Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs),
must be credited with conceiving this project and finding support
for its accomplishment.
Major General W. D. Crittenberger, Jr., presently Deputy
Director, Plans and Policy Directorate, J-5, Joint Chiefs of Staff,
sponsored this project and helped to lay the initial groundwork.
During the research and writing of the monograph his advice, based
on his experiences as II Field Force Artillery commander in Viet­
nam, has been invaluable.
Brigadier General Robert J. Koch, assistant commandant of the
Field Artillery School, has been my principal assistant in this effort
(as he was for General Wetherill before me). He has helped me to
steer the activities of all those who participated in producing the
monograph. Beyond that, he has provided valuable input to the
monograph based on his experiences as the commander of the 23d
Artillery Group and the XXIV Corps Artillery in Vietnam.
Colonel Vincent G. Oberg, director of the Army-Wide Training
Support Department of the Field Artillery School, with the help of
two of his division chiefs, Lieutenant Colonels Ray K. Casteel and
Carl W. Sullinger, co-ordinated this effort within the Field Artillery
School. He developed a plan of work, sought out source material,
and formed the monograph research team.
The monograph research team consisted of officers and clerks
assigned to various field artillery activities on post and of officers
who had recently completed the field artillery officer advance course
and were on casual, or "blackbird," status awaiting further assign­
ment. The monograph team must be credited with accomplishing
the leg work—researching the topic and expanding into more de­
tail the general guidance they received. Members of the team were
Lieutenant Colonel Calvin DeWitt III, Major Bob W. Garner,
Major Ronald N. Funderburk, Major Craig H. Mandeville, Cap­
tain Richard L. Murphy, Captain Fred R. Franzoni, Captain Rich­
ard H. Reed, Captain Nicholas A. Radvanczy, First Lieutenant
Melvin M. Yazawa, Mrs Pamela K. Morales, and Private First
Class C. Foster Deen.
Last, I extend my sincere thanks to all field artillerymen who
contributed much of the source material for the monograph either
by relating to us their personal experiences and observations or by
lending us their personal files.

Fort Sill, Oklahoma DAVID E. OTT

15 March 1975 Major General, U.S. Army


Chapter Page


Geography 3

The Enemy 7

Political-Military Considerations 18

II. T H E ADVISORY EFFORT, 1950-1965 21

Background—Military Assistance Advisory Group,

Vietnam, Organized 21

The Field Artillery Adviser 22

The Adviser's Challenge 24

The Adviser Learns, Too 31


The Impact of Vietnam on Field Artillery

Organizations 39

Fire Support Co-ordination 47

Field Artillery Weapons 49

Field Artillery Mobility 51

The Fire Base 55

Base Camp Defense 73

Riverine Artillery 75

IV. T H E BUILDUP (1965-1967) 81

The Buildup Begins and Early Actions Around

Saigon 81

New Arrivals 86

The Pleiku (la Drang) Campaign 87

The Buildup and Major Combat Operations

During 1966 96

The Buildup and Major Combat Operations

During 1967 110

Overview: 1965 to Pre-Tet 1968 129

V. T H E H O T WAR (1968-OCTOBER 1969) 137

Tet 1968 137

Khe Sanh 148

A Shau 157

Actions at Fire Bases and Lessons Learned 161

Peak Strength and Beginning of Redeployment . . 167

Artillery Organizations 168

Chapter Page

Safety 173
Target Acquisition 179
Artillery Raids 184
Harassing and Interdiction Fires 187
Civic Action 188
1969-FEBRUARY 1973 190
Field Artillery Assistance Programs 190
Operations Into Cambodia 205
Toward Vietnamese Self-Sufficiency 215
1972 Enemy Offensive 220
P r o b l e m s D u r i n g P h a s e - D o w n of U.S. Forces ... 225
VII. A N O V E R V I E W 231
Work To Be Done 231
The Field Artilleryman's Performance 236

1. Characteristic Sapper Organization 16
2. Field Artillery Task Organization, January 1968 170
3. Field Artillery Task Organization, July 1969 171

1. Administrative Divisions, South Vietnam 2
2. Vietnam Topographic Regions 4
3. Enemy Activity, 1954-1965 36
4. la Drang Valley 88
5. Area of Operations: MASHER /WHITE WING 99
6. Landing Zone BIRD 109
7. Operation JUNCTION CITY, 22 February-14 May 1967 . . 114
8. Battle of Suoi Cut, FSB BURT 119
9. Fire Support Base CUDGEL 126
10. The Tet Offensive, 1968 139
11. The Battle of Hue: Enemy Attack, 30-31 January 1968 . 140
12. The Battle of Hue: Friendly Situation,
24-25 February 1968 141
13. Ill Corps Tactical Zone 144
14. North Quang Tri Province 149
15. Khe Sanh Valley 150
16. I Corps Tactical Zone 158
17. Fire Support Base MAURY I 162

No. Page

18. Fire Support Base PIKE VI 164

19. FSB CROOK: Enemy Situation, Friendly Fires,
6-7 June 1969 183
20. Enemy Base Areas 208
21. I l l ARVN Corps Operations . 210
22. 1st Cavalry Division Operations, May-June 1970 211

1. M101 105-mm. Artillery Field Position 63
2. M102 105-mm. Emplacement 64
3. Semipermanent 105-mm. Self-Propelled Howitzer
Emplacement 65
4. Towed 155-mm. Howitzer Emplacement 66
5. Self-Propelled 155-mm. Howitzer Emplacement 67
6. Heavy (8-inch or 175-mm.) Artillery Emplacement 68
7. Battery A, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 320th Artillery,
Fire Base 121
8. Artillery Box 152

ARVN Outpost 26
ARVN Gun Section 28
155-mm. Howitzer in Tuy An District Headquarters 33
Early Movement of Artillery by Air 34
CH-47 With M102 Howitzer 51
CH-54 Lifting 155-mm. Howitzer 52
Fire Support Base J. J. CARROLL 53
Star Formation 54
Building Parapets 56
1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery, in Position Along
Demilitarized Zone 57
Typical Towed 155-mm. Position 57
Battery C, 2d Battalion, 138th Field Artillery, on Hill 88 . . . 58
Battery D, 3d Battalion, 13th Field Artillery, at Fire Support
Base STUART 59
155-mm. Howitzer Position Using Speedjack and
Collimator 60
6,400-Mil Chart 62
Artillery Hill at Pleiku 69
AN/MPQ-4 Countermortar Radar 71
TPS-25 Ground Surveillance Radar 72
30-Inch Xenon Searchlight 74
Emplacing Airmobile Firing Platform 76


Riverine Field Artillery Battalion Command Post 77

Riverine Battery Position 78

Riverine Platoon Moored to Canal Bank 79

Riverine Gun Section in Traveling Configuration 80

105-mm. Battery Firing From Hasty Position 82

Aerial Rocket Artillery UH-1B with XM3 Weapons

System 85

Field Force Artillery 97

175-mm. Gun 98

CH-54 Emplacing 155-mm. Howitzer 102

M102 Firing High-Angle 103

Battery A, 2d Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, in

Position on Operation WHEELER 123

Aerial Field Artillery Cobra in Flight 131

Aerial Field Artillery Cobra and Light Observation

Helicopter 132

Major General David E. Ott Demonstrates FAD AC 135

1st Battalion, 8th Field Artillery, Fire Direction Center . . . . 176

FADAC Computer 177

Ammunition Resupply by CH-54 187

Formal Fire Direction Center Class for ARVN Field

Artillerymen 203

ARVN 155-mm. Howitzer Static Position 206

ARVN 103d Field Artillery Battalion in Training 207

Illustrations on front and back covers of softback edition are the work of

Specialist 6 Jim Gardner.



O 25 50 75 100 MILES








The Vietnam Environment

The environment of Southeast Asia, and more specifically of

Vietnam, posed particular problems that plagued all military ac­
tivities. The U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG),
Vietnam, began the publication of a series of "lessons learned" re­
ports in March 1962. Lessons Learned Number 31, on artillery
organization and employment, appeared in September 1963. Ob­
servations made in this report were prophetic. Artillery must be
organized and employed in counterinsurgency to meet new re­
quirements, for "there are no well defined battle areas." Indeed,
the report of the American advisers continued, "The entire re­
public of Vietnam can be considered an area of operations." {Map
1) Moreover, the terrain in Vietnam was such that it became a
major concern along with the tactics and techniques of the enemy.
The artillery, especially, must adapt to the physical environment
because, the report concluded, even "if time to displace were
available the road net or terrain would frequently prohibit dis­
These early observations foreshadowed some of the fundamen­
tal problems that American forces would encounter in succeeding
years. The Vietnam environment—the human challenge as well as
the elemental implications—determined the character of the con­
flict in terms of geography, the enemy, and the government of

The coastline of Vietnam, which extends for more than 1,200
miles, forms an S-curve that reaches from the southern border of
China to the tip of the Indochina peninsula. The length of the
coastline almost equals that of the Pacific coast of the continental
United States. The total land area of Vietnam, some 127,000 square
miles, is approximately the same as that of New Mexico. To the
north, the country widens irregularly to a maximum of 300 miles;
to the south, it reaches a maximum width of 130 miles.
Vietnam may be divided into five distinct geographic regions:
(1) the Northern Mountains, (2) the Northern Plains, (3) the







O 50 100 ISO MM

I r—"-i H '



Central Highlands, (4) the Coastal Lowlands, and (5) the South­
ern Plains. (Map 2)
The Northern Mountains region encompasses about 40,000
square miles of rugged terrain in what is part of the Annamite
Mountains. The peaks are higher in the north, northwest, and west,
where they range from 4,000 feet to about 8,000 feet. The southern­
most spur of the Annamite Mountains, over 750 miles long,
originates in Laos and stretches southeastward to the Vietnamese-
Laotian border and thereafter generally parallels the coast. To the
east, the slopes fall off steeply to the narrow coastal plains; to the
west, the Annamite spur slopes more gradually to the valley of the
Mekong in Laos and Cambodia.
The Northern Plains region includes the Red River Delta and
the narrow coastal lowlands of North Vietnam. The area is well
cultivated and densely populated. The delta proper, about 5,700
square miles, is indented by the many small mouths of the Red
River. Levees, some up to 35 feet high, are built along the major
river and stream networks and divide the land into a series of
saucer-shaped basins. Most of the land is not over 10 feet above sea
level, and much of it is 3 feet or less. Hence, the whole area is sub­
ject to frequent flooding.
The Central Highlands region is the 18,600-square-mile region
of central South Vietnam. The northernmost portion of the high­
lands is adjacent to the Northern Mountains region and is largely a
continuation of the Annamite Mountains. The ranges are rugged,
with elevations near 7,000 feet. Farther south the region is domi­
nated by gently rolling volcanic plateaus with elevations between
2,600 and 5,000 feet.
The Coastal Lowlands region is the narrow belt of plains ex­
tending from the Mekong Delta to the Northern Plains region. The
region, enclosed on the landward side by the Central Highlands, is
never more than 40 miles wide. The entire coastal strip is seg­
mented by mountain spurs that extend to the sea. The region is in
varying degrees of cultivation and is interspersed throughout with
jand dunes.
The Southern Plains region takes in the intermediate lowlands
and the fertile Mekong Delta. The intermediate lowlands con­
stitute the transitional zone between the Central Highlands and the
delta proper. Basically an undulating plain interrupted occasion­
ally by marshland, this transitional zone slopes southward. Eleva­
tions range from 300 feet in the northern sector to sea level near the
delta. Dense rain forests cover large areas of the region; however,
dry field crops such as corn, sweet potatoes, and beans, in addition
to the rubber plantations and the less extensive rice fields, are

scattered throughout. The Mekong Delta is the most fertile plain

in Vietnam and is its largest rice-producing area. Almost the entire
delta is covered with rice fields situated within an interlacing net­
work of rivers, streams, and irrigation canals. The plain is low and
level; nowhere is it more than 10 feet above sea level. Gradients
vary as little as one-fifth foot per mile. The dominant relief features
are the rice paddy dikes. The drainage network is irregular and,
because of poor runoff conditions, the northern edge of the delta is
marshland. Yet the Mekong, unlike the Red River, has a moderat­
ing element whenever the river is in flood. The Tonle Sap, a large
freshwater lake in central Cambodia, serves as a regulating reser­
voir to stabilize the flow of water through the lower Mekong.
During flood stage the silted delta outlets cannot carry off the
flood waters. The swollen Mekong then backs up into the Tonle
Sap and expands the lake so that it covers as much as four times
its low-water area. As the flood subsides, the water reverts to its
original flow from the lake to the sea. The regulating reservoir thus
significantly reduces the danger of serious floods.
All five major geographical regions contain several basic types
of vegetation. Vegetation areas fall into six general categories: (1)
rain forest, (2) open forest, (3) swampland, (4) marshland, (5)
grassland, and (6) cultivated areas. The rain forest, predominant
in the Northern Mountains, Central Highlands, and intermediate
lowlands regions, consists of a continuous, multilevel canopy of
numerous species of trees—primarily broadleaf evergreens. Sec­
ondary growth rain forests tend to contain small, closely spaced
trees and dense undergrowth. The open forests of the plateau
region of the Central Highlands and areas of the Northern Moun­
tains and the transitional zone of the Southern Plains include
widely spaced trees above a floor of tall, sharp-edged thatch grass.
The primarily deciduous trees shed their leaves during the dry
season. Swampland is characteristic of the coastal sectors of the
Northern Mountains, the Red River Delta, and the Mekong Delta.
Primary vegetation in these areas is the mangrove, a variety of
evergreen that thrives in brackish water and muddy soil. The tree
crowns form a dense canopy and the prop roots constitute an almost
impenetrable ground barrier. Marshland fringes the northern edge
of the Mekong Delta near the Cambodian border. Reclamation
projects have lessened its extent. In the marshland areas, sharp­
bfeded reeds and rushes grow to heights of seven feet. Grassland is
most prevalent in the Northern Mountains, near the Chinese bor­
der, but sections of grassland are dispersed throughout Vietnam.
Thatch grass is the most common vegetation in these locations. The

vegetation and crops of the cultivated areas, particularly in the

Northern and Southern Plains and Coastal Lowlands regions, in­
clude corn, beans, potatoes, and other dry field crops, as well as
coconut, sugar cane, rubber, and rice. The deltas in particular are
covered with rice paddies.
As important as topography and vegetation in a geographical
survey of Vietnam is a consideration of its climate. Paramount in
climatic changes are the seasonal monsoons. During the southwest,
or summer, monsoon, the heat of central Asia rises and causes
humid air to flow inland from the ocean, usually from mid-May to
early October. The humid airflow brings heavy rains to the plateau
area and the western slopes of the mountain regions. Average rain­
fall during these months ranges from 55 to 110 inches in the north
and 40 to 95 inches in the south. However, sections along the
eastern slopes and the coastal plains receive relatively little mois­
ture. Except for local variations, high humidity, tropical tempera­
ture, and cloudiness prevail during these months. The northeast,
or winter, monsoon results from the high pressure in the Asian in­
terior forcing dry, cool air out toward the sea. This flow generally
begins in early November and continues until mid-March. The
coastal region receives relatively heavy precipitation, whereas
across the mountains in Laos the weather is hot and dry. During
January, February, and early March, the coastal areas, especially
along the Gulf of Tonkin, experience the "crachin"—a period of
intermittent drizzle and low cloud overcast. The periods between
these monsoons are known as the spring and autumn transitions.
The spring transition, from mid-March until mid-May, is a period
of very high temperatures and high humidity and a number of
cloudy, overcast days. The autumn transition includes the weeks
from early October until early November. For the central portion
of the coastal plains, the heaviest amount of precipitation and
cloud cover occurs during this transitional phase.

The Enemy

The requirements for countering insurgency in South Vietnam

were considerably different from those experienced by U.S. artil­
lery in past combat operations. First, the enemy could attack
ground forces or the local populace at times and places of his
choosing. Second, he was indistinguishable from the populace and
even from some of the irregular friendly paramilitary forces. There
could be little progress toward identifying and finding this elusive

enemy without first acquiring detailed knowledge of his organiza­

tions and methods.
The Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) in 1941 formed the
Viet Minh, or League for the Independence of Vietnam. A de­
cade later, the Viet Minh had grown unwieldy and and was re­
organized, following the March 1951 Congress of Unification of
the Lien-Viet and Viet-Minh Fronts, into the Vietnam Dang Lao
Dong, or Vietnam Workers' Party. Ho Chi Minh and the other
leaders of the Viet Minh hoped ultimately to reconstruct, within
this broad national front, a hard inner core around which a well-
disciplined following could be organized. The Central Executive
Committee of the new Lao Dong Party was headed by Ho Chi Minh
and included the former Viet Minh leadership. The Indochinese
Communist Party meanwhile had been dissolved in 1945 after fif­
teen years of operation and was succeeded by the Marxist Study
Club. The Lao Dong Party was, in effect, a less ostentatious re­
creation of the Indochinese Communist Party. "We may tell the
party adherents that the new party is basically the Communist Party
under a new form," a confidential executive committee circular
pointed out, "but to those that are outside of the party, we will say
that it is a newly-created party merely continuing the revolution­
ary work of the preceding parties."
In the years after the 1954 Geneva Accords, as it became ap­
parent that the agreement for national elections would not be
honored and that the Diem government would soon collapse, Lao
Dong Party cadres went south and began organizing the dissi­
dents in South Vietnam. By December 1960 the National Libera­
tion Front (NLF) of South Vietnam had been formed. The organi­
zation of the Front, according to Douglas Pike, was a "phantom
edifice." Lao Dong cadres first conceived the front on paper and
then applied it to the grievances of the south. Organizational im­
petus, in other words, came from the Lao Dong Party, whereas the
support, primarily an anti-Diem coalition, was indigenous. Lao
Dong participation in the National Liberation Front, never seri­
ously concealed, became apparent with the formation in January
1962 of the People's Revolutionary Party (PRP), which replaced
the southern branch of the Lao Dong Party. Communist domina­
tion marked the end of the phase of intensive organization build­
ing. Membership in the National Liberation Front had reached
approximately 300,000, and the creation of the People's Revolu­
tionary Party initiated a period of internal NLF solidification which
eventually culminated in Northern control of the Front. By 1964,
relocated northerners made up about one-half of the Front's 40,000
civilian cadres.

The military arm of the National Liberation Front was the

People's Liberation Armed Force (PLAF), which was known before
1966 as the Liberation Army of the Front. Allied forces referred
to the Force simply as Viet Cong—a nebulous term for Vietnamese
Communists that nevertheless persisted. The army was made up
of main force regulars and paramilitary units. The regulars (Chu­
Luc-Qiian), stationed mainly in secret bases and secured areas,
were professional, well trained, disciplined, and thoroughly in­
doctrinated soldiers. They were chosen from battle-experienced
regional units or infiltrated from North Vietnam. The organiza­
tional plan called for the incorporation of party commissars from
the company level up and for a party cell in each platoon that
worked with the company commissar.
Until 1956, Communist forces in the south were mostly guer­
rilla units supplemented by a few regulars. The number of regular
forces increased continuously in the succeeding years, so that by
1963 the estimated strength of main force regulars was between
25,000 and 30,000 and by 1965 about 35,000 men. The missions of
the PLAF main force regulars resembled those of the armed forces
of North Vietnam—the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), more
commonly known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Co­
ordination and efficiency were essential. "They have the capacity,"
North Vietnam Defense Minister General Vo Nuyen Giap observed,
"to annihilate major units or command posts of the enemy."
The paramilitary forces of the People's Liberation Armed
Force, made up primarily of indigenous personnel, consisted of
regional units and local militia. The regional units were guerrilla
bands that operated mainly in their home provinces and districts.
Their primary responsibilities were to (1) train and assist the local
militia, emphasizing not only military doctrine but also political
activities, (2) screen the operations of the main force regulars, and
(3) serve as reserves and reinforcements to the regulars. These
activities kept the government forces off balance. In 1965, the
regional forces contained an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 men. The
local militia (Dan Quan Du Kich) were largely untrained, poorly
equipped, and inadequately indoctrinated. However, as an integral
part of the population, they filled an important logistical role for
the regional and regular forces. Their social role was perhaps
even more critical than their military potential. Proselyting the
local populace called for nonmilitary indoctrination. It has been
estimated that militia training, conducted by regional units or
regular forces, included 70 percent political and only 30 percent
military subjects.
After 1959 Communist troop infiltration south was continuous.

The majority of the infiltrators were former Viet Minh who had
regrouped to the north after the Geneva agreement. Until 1960 the
North Vietnamese Army assisted the insurgency in the south mainly
by providing specialists to the National Liberation Front and the
People's Liberation Armed Force. By late 1964, the demand for
more NVA units in the south forced changes in the makeup of
infiltrators. North Vietnam began recalling former enlisted men in
1964 and officers in 1965. The new need also altered draft require­
ments. The draft formerly affected those between 18 and 25 years
old; it expanded to include persons between ages 17 and 35. Also,
by mid-1966 the semiannual call had become a quarterly call and
the term of service, once 3 years, had been extended to the dura­
tion of the war.
The enlarged numbers of infiltrators soon exceeded the capa­
bilities of the North Vietnamese training units. The 338th Brigade
until 1964 had been responsible for infiltration training, but addi­
tional training commands were now needed to cope with the build­
up. The 22d Training Group, 250th Training Division, 320th
Training Division, and 350th Division joined the training efforts
of the 338th. Together these units could train between 78,000 and
96,000 men per year.
The tempo of activity picked up in 1968 and inflated the man­
power requirements of the military. Consequently, the People's
Liberation Armed Force as well as the North Vietnamese Army
underwent further modifications. The PLAF main force and re­
gional units faced the dilemma of enlarged needs and diminished
manpower resources. In 1968, approximately 60,500 men were
recruited; in 1969, about 57,000. Of these, it has been estimated
that 50 percent were recruited through the use or threat of force.
Large numbers of these recruits were under 17 years old. The
North Vietnamese Army, in turn, was forced not only to aid the
PLAF main force but also to send some of its own elements to the
regional units. The burden on manpower resources, though heavy,
was not critical for the North Vietnamese. An estimate of the
number of males of military age (15 to 49 years) in January 1969
showed that of a total of 4,607,000 approximately 2,700,000 were
fit for military duty and that another 100,000 men would become
eligible each year.
The tactics of the North Vietnamese Army, and especially of the
People's Liberation Armed Force, emphasized security, silence, and
speed. The carefully detailed plans, the rehearsals whenever feasi­
ble, the speedy execution, and the equally quick and cautious
withdrawals were forced upon them because of the preponderant
firepower of the U.S. forces. Offensive activities had to be main­

tained, the positional defense avoided; NVA and PLAF artillery

support adapted to these prerequisites.
Until 1967 the North Vietnamese Army and the People's Liber­
ation Armed Force used primarily mortars and recoilless rifles in
standoff attacks against allied military installations and outposts.
The limited destructive capability of these weapons and the tight­
ened installation security of the allies, which came to include those
areas within medium mortar range, forced the enemy to lessen the
frequency of his attacks.
In early 1966 enemy use of Soviet cannon artillery became more
common. The 85-mm. Soviet divisional gun, the 122-mm. Soviet
Ml938 howitzer, the 122-mm. Soviet D14 gun, and the 152-mm.
Soviet M1939 gun-howitzer, as well as captured U.S. 75-mm. and
105-mm. howitzers, increased the NVA and PLAF long-range de­
structive capability. However, allied firepower placed restrictions
on their use. A survey conducted by the U.S. Army XXIV Corps
Artillery over a seven-month period in 1968 concluded that the
hours most preferred by the NVA for firing were from 1000 to
1300, from 1400 to 1500, and from 1600 to 1900. The frequency
rose steadily during the morning hours, peaked around 1130, and
then dropped off considerably. Artillery fire peaked again around
1430 and 1830 and decreased significantly following each peak pe­
riod. The preference for daylight hours, according to the survey,
was probably determined by a desire to avoid counterbattery fire.
Frequent nighttime moves from position to position were manda­
tory to avoid detection, and firing was limited to a few rounds per
gun from several widely scattered positions.
By late 1966 Soviet and Chinese Communist rockets were in
the enemy inventory. These rockets were not only more suitable
than cannon artillery for attacking larger targets but also lighter
and more adaptable. And because of their low trajectory, rockets
often escaped location by the U.S. AN/MPQ-4 (Q-4) counter-
mortar radar. The 140-mm. rocket attack on Da Nang air base on
27 February 1967 commenced a new phase in the war in terms of
enemy capabilities by extending the attack range by about 3,500
yards beyond the maximum range of the 120-mm. mortar and
more than doubling the warhead payload. Moreover, rockets were
more mobile than conventional artillery. A captured enemy train­
ing document explained that the "main purposes of the rockets
are objectives having a large area, usually 400 x 400 m, such as
enemy strongholds, air fields, storage points, or towns." The rockets
could also be used "to support the infantry and to attack distant
objectives that may affect the combat mission of the infantry."
All the rockets could be employed from improvised launchers.

The 140-mm. rockets used in the attack on Da Nang air base were
fired from 134 crudely mounted launching positions consisting of
single metal tubes mounted on wooden boards, with elementary
elevation and deflection devices. The enemy accomplished simul­
taneous launchings by wiring several weapons to two ignition wires
and then to a battery. A modified Soviet 122-mm. rocket was used
during the 6 March 1967 attack on Camp Carroll. The launcher
was a single tube taken from the Soviet multiple rocket launcher,
the 40-round BM-21, shortened by 18 inches from the original
9.6 feet, fitted with a tripod mount, and equipped with a modified
optical sight taken from the Soviet 82-mm. recoilless gun. In this
form the weapon could be broken down into five manageable
loads for jungle mobility. But the enemy was even able to launch
the 122-mm. rocket by propping it against sandbag mounts or
wooden stakes. Although errors increased, only three manpacks
were sufficient to transport the weapon when it was used in this
fashion. The 122-mm. rocket soon became the standard rocket of
the North Vietnamese Army and the People's Liberation Armed
The Chinese Communist 107-mm. rocket, used in February
1968 against the U.S. base camp at Quan Loi plantation, added
another dimension to the NVA and PLAF arsenals. The 107-mm.
rocket packed a smaller warhead and had a shorter range than the
122-mm. rocket. However, because they were relatively light, three
107-mm. rockets could be transported as easily as one 122-mm.
round. And like the 140-mm. and 122-mm. rockets, the 107-mm.
could be launched from improvised pads. An enemy training docu­
ment pointed out that 107-mm. rocket firing pads could be made
of dirt, bamboo frames, or crossed stakes. The rocket could be
launched from "road embankments, a dike between two rice fields,
the brim of a combat trench, an earth mound, a bomb crater, or
an ant hill." In the summer of 1968, reports mentioned the possible
enemy use of multiple rocket launchers. U.S. forces had encoun­
tered twin-tubed 107-mm. launchers fitted as if they were intended
to be attached to other tubes. These rather sophisticated launch­
ers were obvious contrasts to the crudely improvised 140-mm.
and 120-mm. assemblies. On 16 September 1968, the Americans
captured a Chinese Communist-manufactured 12-round launcher
for the 107-mm. rocket. Broken down, the launchers were easily
transportable and delivered the 107-mm. rocket against separate
targets; assembled, the multiple launcher massed 12 rounds on a
single target area.
Enemy units continued to make the most of their weapons by
adapting available resources to prevailing requirements. For ex­

ample, they created the 107-mm., 120-mm., and 140-mm. overcali­

ber rockets by attaching larger warheads to the original assemblies.
Modification lessened accuracy, but the overcaliber rockets pro­
vided effective harassing and saturation fires.
Enemy company commanders, like their counterparts in the
cannon artillery units, were conscious of U.S. firepower. A cap­
tured company commander explained in December 1968 that U.S.
air observers could follow the rocket exhaust and pinpoint launch
sites for air strikes. Hence it was necessary to employ "hit and run
tactics in accordance with the principles of guerrilla warfare." Fire
control and co-ordination was primary. "No more than five rounds
are fired from any single tripod-type launcher. This takes about
20 minutes." No more than two salvos were fired in about ten
minutes time from improvised launchers. Displacement involved
"the immediate pickup of all equipment and leaving the area
with all possible speed, which takes about 5 minutes."
By late 1969 the rocket, because of its advantages in terms of
payload and mobility, had become the prime weapon of the NVA
and PLAF artillery. The rocket units were organized into regi­
ments, battalions, companies, and platoons. The regiment included
a headquarters squadron, a signal and reconnaissance company,
and three rocket companies. The number of rockets and launchers
per company varied with the caliber of the weapons. A 107-mm.
rocket company normally consisted of twelve launchers and twenty-
four rockets; a 122-mm. company, six launchers and eighteen
rockets; and a 140-mm. company, sixteen launchers and sixteen
The makeup of the cannon artillery units varied according to
their location. Medium artillery pieces were prevalent only in the
Demilitarized Zone, where regiments usually contained 36 tubes—
24 of 105-mm. and 12 of 130-mm. and 152-mm. In addition, a few
85-mm. and 100-mm. pieces were sometimes incorporated. Else­
where, conventional NVA and PLAF units normally included weap­
ons not considered artillery pieces in American units. The 60-mm.,
81-mm., 82-mm., and 120-mm. mortars and the 57-mm., 75-mm.,
and 82-mm. recoilless rifles, along with the 12.7-mm antiaircraft
machine gun, were commonly parts of their artillery arsenal. Less
common, though still available, were the 70-mm. Japanese and
75-mm. U.S. howitzers. Artillery training, in fact, envisioned the
use of captured American artillery pieces. Assembly and disas­
sembly of the 105-mm. howitzer and the use of U.S. aiming devices
in laying the 75-mm. and 105-mm. tubes were included in the NVA
and PLAF artillery curriculum.
No description of the North Vietnamese Army and the Peo­

pie's Liberation Armed Force and their effect on allied forces would
be complete without mention of the ubiquitous sapper. During the
first half of 1969, sapper attacks inflicted an average of over $1 mil­
lion damage per raid. However, the role of the sapper was often
misunderstood. Before 1967, the enemy had not grasped the sig­
nificance of the sapper as an assault soldier. The allies, on the
other hand, sometimes erroneously categorized the sapper as a
guerrilla simply because some guerrillas employed sapper tactics.
The fusion blurred identification. The development of the sapper
and his employment before and after the creation of a separate
sapper combat arm, equivalent to the infantry and artillery, must
be traced before his impact on the war can be appreciated.
The term sapper originated in Europe and traditionally iden­
tified a combat engineer. In Vietnam this conventional associa­
tion remained, but a more particular connotation increasingly
qualified the sapper. The sapper signified a raider-ranger unit
and gained notoriety as the lead element in an assault on a fixed
installation or military field position. Armed primarily with ex­
plosives charges, the sapper breached the defensive perimeter and
neutralized tactical and strategic positions and thus prepared for
the attack of the main body.
Before 1967, however, the sappers were often misused. As late
as 1964, the People's Liberation Armed Force envisioned the use
of sappers only during the first phase of guerrilla warfare, before
the government of Vietnam could establish strongpoints and im­
prove defensive positions. Sapper units remained subordinate to
the infantry and served as reinforcements in assaults. Deep pene­
trations were disallowed. Sapper units were constrained in their
operations until the artillery had fired. And sappers themselves
were occasionally deficient when employed in raids. Inadequate
preparation, incomplete reconnaissance, and inexperience of the
demolition men used as penetrators all contributed to the poor
execution of these missions. Nevertheless, the number of sapper
units in South Vietnam increased steadily after 1965, and by 1967
the enemy recognized the misemployment but also the potential
of these forces. The North Vietnamese Army upgraded the entire
organization and, in late April or early May 1967, created the
Sapper Headquarters, Sapper Department, Joint General Staff.
The sapper force, as an independent combat arm equivalent
to the infantry or the artillery, operated (1) in the assault without
infantry, (2) in the assault with infantry, (3) in special action
group activities, and (4) in "water sapper" operations. Sappers in
special action groups operated essentially in the cities, proselyting
the population and maintaining pressure, while water sappers

mined ships, bridges, and other water-associated targets. Special

action groups and water sappers were of less immediate importance
to the artillery in Vietnam than were sappers employed in the
first two modes.
Sapper assaults, with or without the infantry, depended on
stealth and secrecy. Their primary method of attack called for
making deep thrusts into allied positions from different directions
and hitting several targets simultaneously. Organization was de­
termined by the specific mission and the location and strength of
the allied forces. Characteristically, however, the sapper force in­
cluded assault, security, fire support, and reserve elements.
(Chart 1)
Assaults without the infantry required fullest use of the fire
support or reserve elements, either separately or in combination.
The sappers disguised their attacks as attacks by fire through the
use of mortars by the fire support elements or as infantry assaults
through employment of the reserve elements, which were the
equivalent of infantry squads. If the deception worked, the oppos­
ing forces would deploy to their bunkers or to the defensive perim­
eter and leave the center of the installation vulnerable to assault
Sapper attacks with the infantry were either with the sappers in
support of the infantry or the infantry in support of the sappers.
Sapper units considered supporting the infantry a misuse of their
tactical abilities. Attached to a large unit, they tended to lose the
advantages of secrecy and surprise. Nevertheless, sappers continued
to be employed as reinforcements to the infantry. The second
mode of sapper operation—using the infantry as a reserve, security,
or secondary assault element—seemed more effective. The greatest
threat to allied positions was an attack spearheaded by sappers
with explosive charges, followed by the infantry some 100 to 200
meters behind.
During 1968, after the sapper organization had been made a
separate combat arm, attacks by sappers or by units employing
sapper tactics occurred on a larger scale and often were accom­
panied by indirect fire support. By the end of that year, heavy
Communist losses resulting from large-scale offensives made the
sapper and his techniques empirical necessities. Minimum man­
power expenditure was imperative, yet military pressure had to be
maintained. The sapper was well suited to these dual demands. A
captured enemy document explained that considerable damage
could be inflicted by a relatively slight force through the cautious
application of sapper tactics: small numbers of men could "inflict
extensive damage on enemy installations." The sapper should con­



4 men 13 men I B-40 27 men
1 B-40 I machine gun 9 AK-47 2 82-mm mortars
2 AK-47 30 shaped charges 4 AK-47
2 mines I K63 radio




4 men 5 men 4 men 4 men 5 men 4 men
2 AK-47 2 B-40 2 AK-47 2 AK-47 1 B-40 I B 40 I B-40
3 bangalores 3 AK-47 I B-40 4 bangalores 45 shaped charges 35 shaped charges I AK-47
2 wire cutters 70 shaped charges 50 shaped charges 2 AK-47 2 AK-47
5 AT grenades 5 AT grenades 5 AT grenades 3 AT grenades

centrate on strategic structures "located deep within enemy-

controlled areas" rather than concern himself with inflicting
casualties. The ability to penetrate, and not the preponderance of
firepower or men, was crucial. But, the document warned, sapper
attacks should "not normally last over 30 minutes after the enemy
is aware of the sapper presence."
From the beginning of 1968 until mid-1969, sappers were es­
sential to the enemy's effort. Although they participated in only 4
percent of all assaults, these made up 12 percent of all significant
assaults—those which inflicted serious damage. From January 1968
until May 1969, the frequency of sapper raids remained at about
five per month, but their effectiveness greatly improved. The
average raid during 1968 resulted in approximately $300,000 dam­
age. In 1969, the average raid inflicted more than $1,000,000 dam­
age and accounted for more allied casualties. The selection of
targets testified to the increasing boldness of the sapper units. In
1965 the use of sappers against allied combat positions such as out­
posts, fire support bases, and landing zones was still debated, but in
1967 training for this type of attack was rapidly progressing. During
1968 and 1969 these field positions made up 43 percent of the
sapper targets; fixed military installations such as storage depots,
base camps, and Air Force installations accounted for 32 percent of
the sapper raids; and population centers accounted for 18 percent
of the total. More than 51 percent of the raids occurred between
0100 and 0300. General Giap showed the increasing confidence in
sapper units when he exclaimed, "Regardless of how strongly the
US or puppet troops are defended, they can be easily destroyed by
our crack and special troops with their special combat tactic."
The creation of the Sapper Headquarters in 1967, the need for
troop conservation, especially after 1968, and the demonstrated
effectiveness of the sapper during 1969 contributed to the growing
emphasis placed upon these forces. The expansion of the sapper
combat arm mirrored this emphasis. In July of 1967 the V-25 In­
fantry Battalion, a PLAF regional unit in Quang Nam Province,
was scheduled to be upgraded to main force status and retained as
a sapper force. Here was the first clear indication that large in­
fantry units were being converted into sapper units. By June of
1968, nine main force and regional force battalions and sixteen
companies of sappers were in existence. In early 1969, the sapper
force had grown to nineteen battalions and thirty-six companies.
And by mid-1969, this force had increased to twenty-seven bat­
talions and thirty-nine companies.

Political-Military Considerations
The peculiarities of terrain and enemy operations fundamen­
tally affected the employment of artillery in Vietnam. Gunnery
errors in the past seldom had resulted in friendly casualties.
Rounds that cleared friendly lines were usually safe. In Vietnam,
however, front lines were nonexistent and the enemy operated
among the local population. Hence, as one study has estimated,
about 50 percent of all artillery missions were fired very close to
friendly positions. If response was to be effective, such areas as no-
fire zones, specified strike zones, and free-fire zones had to be
designated. Otherwise, co-ordination and clearance with the lowest
echelon of the central government, the district, was mandatory
(the district chiefs presumably could account for the location of
friendly elements within the immediate vicinity). In May of 1970
Lessons Learned Number 77', on fire support co-ordination, stated,
"The requirement for military and political clearances for artillery
fire on or near populated areas has an adverse effect on the re­
sponsiveness of artillery fire." The goal of responding within two
minutes after receiving a fire request was "seldom met for targets
near any populated areas." Clearance requirements commonly de­
layed missions up to ten minutes. In fact, the report continued, it
was "not uncommon for the artillery to be unable to fire at all
because of lack of clearances." To reduce the time lost in firing,
liaison with local government agencies and with allied forces was
established. The creation of combined fire support co-ordination
centers in some areas minimized the delays. But, the report con­
cluded, the "lack of responsiveness is a source of constant concern
and frustration at all echelons of command."
The governmental and the military organizations in South
Vietnam were parallel structures that, especially since the 1963
overthrow of the Diem regime, had become closely indentified.
The civil government faced the basic problem of central authority
versus local autonomy, a predicament not peculiar to Vietnam but
pronounced there because of the cultural importance of the village
and its kinship relations. The central government extended into
four regions—South, Center, North, and Highlands—which for­
merly were supervised through regional governors but which since
1955 had been directed by four governmental delegates, one for
each of the regions. These regions were subdivided into 44 prov­
inces from 540 to 10,000 square kilometers in size and with popu­
lations ranging from 33,000 to 850,000. In addition, there were six
autonomous cities that occupied positions equivalent to provinces
in the governmental hierarchy: Saigon, Hue, Da Nang, Da Lat,

Cam Ranh, and Vung Tau. The provinces were subdivided further
into some 236 districts with 2 to 10 districts per province. The
districts took in anywhere from 2 to 57 villages but averaged about
10 villages per district. The villages encompassed 3 to 12 hamlets.
Since the ordinance of 24 October 1956, the provinces have
possessed a substantial amount of legal autonomy. Province chiefs,
appointed by the central government, managed all provincial ser­
vices. They controlled their own budgets, regulated public prop­
erty, and dealt directly with the ministries at the national level.
The districts were not legal political entities and hence pos­
sessed no autonomous budgetary or fiscal powers. Traditionally, the
central government appointed the district chiefs upon the recom­
mendation of the province chiefs. District chiefs thus represented
the lowest territorial echelon of the central authority.
The province and district chiefs functioned in military roles.
The province chiefs co-ordinated all local security through the
Regional Forces (RF) and could, in emergencies, call upon regular
army units. Similarly, the district chiefs regulated the actions of the
Popular Forces (PF). The Regional and Popular Forces were se­
curity forces drawn from the local population and usually confined
themselves to their province or district areas. In a strictly military
sense, their performance was often erratic. A unit might distinguish
itself on one day, yet fail miserably the next because its local leader
had been killed. Moreover, these forces complicated the problems
of command and control and thus enhanced the need for co­
ordination. The paramilitary units were, according to Major Gen­
eral Charles P. Brown, "a mixed bag." Some were consistently
good, others consistently poor. "The majority would have to be
categorized as mediocre."
The villages ostensibly contained a legislative Village Citizen's
Council (VCC) and an executive Village Administrative Com­
mittee (VAC). The village chief headed the Administrative Com­
mittee, and the Citizen's Council, in principle, included
representatives from each hamlet. In the hamlet, the hamlet chief
and his deputies administered domestic needs.
The chain of command of the Republic of Vietnam Armed
Forces (RVNAF), headed by the Joint General Staff (JGS), en­
croached upon the basically civilian government structure. The
Joint General Staff commanded the four military corps tactical
zones (CTZ's) into which Vietnam had been divided. These zones
corresponded to the four regions which had been presided over by
governmental delegates since the elimination of the regional gover­
nors in 1955. The delegates in turn were superseded by the corps
commanders, who functioned as assistants to the chief executive. In

the aftermath of the 1963 coup, military men increasingly replaced

civilian authorities. Not only did the corps commanders oversee the
four regions, many military officers became province chiefs and
divisional tactical areas generally followed provincial boundaries.
In addition, more military men served as district chiefs.
Finally, the villages and hamlets, already part of the military
panorama,were further highlighted in the early 1960's not only
through the action of the Regional Forces and the Popular Forces
but also by the implementation of the government's plans to create
"strategic hamlets." Since insurgents ranged from the higher eche­
lons of the People's Revolutionary Party down to the basic three-
man cells within the hamlets, the government attempted to cope
with the insurgent challenge through its own proselyting program.
In early 1962 the Diem government, with the strong support of the
United States, initiated the strategic hamlet counterinsurgency pro­
gram. Patterned after the British experience in Malaya in 1948, the
strategic hamlet program attempted to isolate the rural population
from the insurgent force in order to deny the latter any popular
support and at the same time to enlarge the government's popular
base through social reforms. The programs, scheduled for comple­
tion by early 1964, envisioned the construction of 11,864 strategic
Diem, in February 1963, expressed confidence in winning the
war because the strategic hamlet program, he said, had separated
the population from the Communists "physically and morally" and
thus had undermined the fundamental principle of "Communist
subversive war." The insurgents, according to Diem, were "becom­
ing more and more a foreign expeditionary corps reduced to fight­
ing a conventional war." In October 1963, Diem announced that
8,600 strategic hamlets incorporating some 10.5 million persons had
been completed. It soon became obvious, however, that the program
was a mere facade of what had been visualized. Social reforms were
not realized; instead, governmental control often became more in­
tense within the reorganized and relocated hamlets. Coupled with
the forced transfer of formerly indifferent peasants, these shortcom­
ings gave credence to the Communist charge that the government
had created "concentration camps."
Thus, while the terrain and the enemy forced new and unusual
demands on all military activity, the development of an indistin­
guishable military-political structure in Vietnam posed further
problems in the conduct of the war. Dealing with these demands
and problems propelled the U.S. effort in general, and that of the
artillery in particular, in new directions.

The Advisory Effort, 1950-1965

Background—Military Assistance
Advisory Group, Vietnam, Organized
The U.S. military advisory effort in Vietnam had a modest be­
ginning in September 1950, when the United States Military Assis­
tance Advisory Group (MAAG), Vietnam, was established in
Saigon. Its mission was to supervise the issuance and employment
of $10 million of military equipment to support French legion­
naires in their effort to combat Viet Minh forces. By 1953 the
amount of U.S. military aid had jumped to over $350 million and
was used to replace the badly worn World War II vintage equip­
ment that France, still suffering economically from the devasta­
tion of that war, was still using.
From the outset, French forces were happy to receive the new
material but refused American advice on how to employ it. The U.S.
desire was that all Vietnamese units be organized and trained to
provide internal defense of their own country and that aid be used
to equip those units. Such a desire was at odds with existing French
policy. The French Army was employed not only to counter enemy
forces but also to assert France as a colonial power. A purely Viet­
namese army would not be dependable in this latter role. Accord­
ingly, major units were filled totally by French officers and non­
commissioned officers with the ranks made up of Vietnamese. Senior
French commanders were so loath to accept advice that would
weaken their traditional colonial role that they effectively hampered
various attempts by MAAG personnel to observe where the equip­
ment was being sent and how it was being used.
Slowly, however, the French were forced to change their poli­
cies. As they steadily lost their grip on the country, they saw that
their days as a colonial power were numbered and that, if the coun­
try was to be saved from a Communist takeover, a strong, effective
Vietnamese force would have to be provided. In 1954 the com­
manding general of French forces in Indochina, General Navarre,
permitted the United States to send liaison officers to Vietnamese
forces. But it was too late, as evidenced by daily worldwide news
accounts of the seige and fall of Dien Bien Phu in the spring of

that year. Under the Geneva Accords, France was forced to surren­
der the northern half of Vietnam and to withdraw from South
Vietnam by April of 1956. On 12 February 1955 at a conference in
Washington, D.C., between officials of the U.S. State Department
and the French Minister of Overseas Affairs, it was agreed that all
U.S. aid would be funneled directly to South Vietnam and that
all major military responsibilities would be transferred from the
French to the Military Assistance Advisory Group mission under
the command of Lieutenant General John O'Daniel. Because there
were only 342 U.S. military personnel assigned to the group, not
enough to accomplish the advisory mission, it was decided to make
the training effort a joint U.S. and French mission under the title of
Training Relations and Instruction Mission (TRIM). The mission
was short lived, since the French Expeditionary Force formally de­
parted South Vietnam in April of 1956 as directed by the Accords
and upon the insistence of President Diem. To fill the void, the
MAAG mission was increased to 740 men by the end of June.
During this reorganization period, General O'Daniel had stated
a need for assigning military advisers down to the battalion level
rather than concentrating them at the higher headquarters levels,
but Military Assistance Advisory Group at that time did not have
enough personnel. Further, President Diem was reluctant to allow
advisers with tactical units. He was fearful that the United States
would gain control or influence over his forces if Americans per­
meated the ranks of the army. It might be surmised that Diem
wanted to maintain complete control of his armed forces, which
constituted a major political tool to keep his opponents at bay. By
1961, however, conditions had changed. Communist guerrillas were
becoming stronger and more active, and enemy contacts increased
in size and intensity throughout South Vietnam.
It was evident that the Hanoi government had little intention of
abiding by the Geneva agreements to honor the south's territorial
integrity. President John F. Kennedy, during late spring of 1961,
further increased the U.S. military commitment in both equipment
and men. Aid had been averaging $50 million per year for the past
several years but was sharply increased to $144 million for 1961. At
the same time President Diem agreed to the assignment of advisers
to battalion level. Accordingly, the adviser strength jumped from
850 in 1959 to over 2,000 in 1961. By 1964 the advisory force num­
bered 23,000 officers and men.
The Field Artillery Adviser
The U.S. advisory buildup during the early 1960's included the
assignment of field artillery advisory teams down to battalion level

as quickly as they could be trained and sent. Each team included an

artillery officer, usually a captain, and a senior noncommissioned
officer. In most cases both had attended the six-week Military Assis­
tance Training Agency (MATA) course taught at the U.S. Army
Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The course
was established to prepare students for future duties as advisers in
Vietnam—to teach them both what to expect and what was ex­
pected of them. The curriculum included, among other subjects, a
profile of the country, its people, government, history, and geogra­
phy; the organization and employment of its military and para­
military forces; and basic language instruction. The "Redleg" (an
artilleryman) advisers were given additional instruction concern­
ing Vietnamese artillery and methods of employing field artillery
effectively in Vietnam. In addition to the MATA course, artillery­
men attending resident courses at Fort Sill after fiscal year 1962
were to receive orientations on counterinsurgency operations. Of­
ficers attending the field artillery career course participated in prac­
tical exercises in the employment of artillery in support of jungle
Field artillery advisory teams were assigned to battalions of
both divisional and corps artillery. Each Vietnamese division in
1961 had a division artillery consisting of one 4.2-inch mortar bat­
talion and one 105-mm. howitzer battalion. Each battalion had
three subordinate firing batteries. In 1961 the mortar batteries had
nine weapons and the cannon batteries had four weapons each.
In 1963 mortar battery weapons were reduced to six and cannon
battery weapons increased to six. From late 1964 to early 1965,
4.2-inch mortar batteries were replaced by 105-mm. batteries;
105-mm. weapons, with their longer ranges, had proved to be
more valuable in accomplishing the mission of area coverage. Each
of the four Vietnamese army corps also had its own artillery, usually
two or three battalions, depending on the need. Corps artillery
consisted of 105- and 155-mm. howitzer battalions. The 155-mm.
howitzer was the heaviest artillery in Vietnam during this period.
Like division artillery, the battalions of corps artillery each had
three batteries. Each battery initially had four weapons, increased
to six by early 1965.
The artillery advisory team was assigned to assist the Vietna­
mese unit commander and his staff in such areas as administrative
procedures, personnel managment, logistics, operations, training,
maintenance, and communications, with particular emphasis on the
tactical employment of artillery. The officer of the team, whose
title was artillery officer adviser, proffered advice on all matters
concerned with enhancing unit effectiveness. His noncommissioned

assistant, the firing battery adviser, concentrated on assisting the

battalion S-3 and operations sergeant in planning, organizing, and
supervising training of the firing batteries and individual gun sec­
tions. In addition to the battalion advisory teams, an artillery of­
ficer, normally a major, was assigned to each corps and division to
advise the senior Vietnamese artillery commanders at those levels.
This adviser had the additional task of co-ordinating the efforts of
the advisory teams with the subordinate battalions.
The young officers and noncommissioned officers who served as
battalion advisers were of the highest caliber. They were at once
professional, knowledgeable, and aggressive. Yet they were soon to
learn that as advisers they could not "get things done" as they had
in the American units in which they had served. Now they could
only advise, not lead. Their advice could be accepted or rejected
as the Vietnamese commander saw fit. Though often frustrating,
this exclusively advisory status was necessary if the Vietnamese
were to learn without the United States being accused of attempt­
ing to grab control of the military with intentions of making Viet­
nam a puppet state. Accordingly, advisers in the field were specif­
ically directed to avoid any action that might be construed as leading
a Vietnamese military organization in combat against the enemy.
To add to their frustrations, advisers were often fearful that
their effectiveness would be judged by their superiors in relation
to the effectiveness of the unit they advised. Unhappily, in some
cases their fears were justified. An outstanding officer might be
assigned to advise a mediocre unit which he was powerless to im­
prove if the unit commander was indifferent to his suggestions.
Though expressed humorously in this first verse of a rather lengthy
poem, the dilemma was a very real one:
I can't pull the throttle,
I can't ring the bell,
But if this goddamn train should stop,
I'm the one that catches hell.
(an adviser's lament—anonymous)
The Adviser's Challenge
Even when ah adviser's suggestion was accepted by his counter­
part, it often seemed that the suggestion was executed in a pains­
takingly slow and inefficient manner. There were several reasons
for this.
First, advisers were faced with helping an army whose soldiers
came from a culture with a set of values and philosophy far dif­
ferent from their own. The American believed that anything could

be accomplished with hard work, and he considered the year he

would be in Vietnam* ample time to get the job done. The Viet­
namese, on the other hand, believed that one must work hard to
live but that progress came about slowly. He had fought an enemy
all his life and could not comprehend why Americans felt that they
could end the fighting overnight. Many other values held by Ameri­
cans and Vietnamese clashed. Suffice it to say that it was often
difficult for an adviser and his counterpart to understand one an­
other. What was viewed as a reasonable approach to a problem by
one was often viewed as inane by the other. Other than making a
sincere effort to understand one another's views, little could be
done to close this cultural gap.
Another reason for apparent ineffectiveness of Vietnamese units
was a void of trained and experienced leaders. Correcting this
weakness was somewhat easier than overcoming cultural differences
but was still a prodigious task. The French had purposely denied
a majority of the leadership positions within their army to Viet­
namese. There was evidence, however, of token acceptance of
Vietnamese leaders as early as 1948. At that time, the French es­
tablished an artillery training center forty kilometers northwest
of Saigon to train noncommissioned officers as well as enlisted
cannoneers for the French Expeditionary Force. In 1951 the school
accepted Vietnamese officers for attendance in the basic courses and
in 1953 presented the first battery commander's course. After the
reorganization of the Vietnamese Army the artillery school was
relocated, first at the engineer school near Thu Dau Mot and then
on 25 July 1961 at Due My, approximately fifty kilometers north­
west of Nha Trang. At each location activities were expanded to
train artillery officers and noncommissioned officers as well as ar­
tillerymen with specialized duties. Among other artillery-related
courses, the first battery commander's course was offered in 1961
and the first advanced course in 1965. Vietnamese artillerymen
could take some pride in their branch being the first in the Viet­
namese military to offer an advanced course.
At unit level, advisers pressed their counterparts to provide
training of junior officers. Some battalions developed aggressive
training programs which brought officers in from the field to pre­
sent classes and practical training on various aspects of the em­
ployment of field artillery.
Many of the most promising young Vietnamese artillery officers
and noncommissioned officers received further training at the U.S.
Army Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they were
exposed to the latest thinking on field artillery employment and

ARVN OUTPOST. Large French-style outpost with a platoon of


developments. From fiscal year 1953 to fiscal year 1973, 663 Viet­
namese artillery officers alone were sent to Fort Sill. Peak atten­
dance was during the early years of the expanded advisory effort,
1960 to 1964, when yearly attendance exceeded 60 officers.
Vietnamese field artillery leaders could not be effective if they
were not knowledgeable in all aspects of the employment of their
weapons. Formal training served that purpose. But an even more
important factor in developing leaders was encouraging the Viet­
namese to take command themselves. American advisers could not
command Vietnamese units, and although the Vietnamese might
make mistakes and perform awkwardly initially, they would be
challenged to perform and to develop into outstanding leaders.
Thus, any frustrations that an adviser might feel in not being
given a firmer hand to control the situation were well worth the
end result of effective Vietnamese leadership.
A third reason for ineffectiveness was poor operational practices,
some inherited from the French and others developed by the
Vietnamese over a period of years. Perhaps the most noteworthy
of these practices was the use of the field artillery primarily as a
defensive weapon. The French had unavoidably set a poor example
for the Vietnamese. They had been forced to use their artillery
defensively in the face of too few soldiers, poor communications,

limited road networks, and insufficient equipment. Since the road

network was so vital to their operations and the Viet Minh tactics
centered on cutting this network, the French developed a series of
small outposts along the roads, each with one or two guns and
mutually supporting wherever possible. For this purpose they used
approximately 400 weapons of mixed calibers, including U.S. 105­
mm. and 155-mm. howitzers and UK 3.7-inch and 25-pound guns.
These weapons were manned by crews of seven to eight men and
usually were located in an outpost occupied by one or two infantry
platoons. From these positions, artillery supported squad-size out­
posts positioned along roads and canals. As a result of this type
of employment, the war was often known as the war of the "firing
lieutenant." Each platoon of two guns was commanded by a French
lieutenant who, because of his isolated location, actually conducted
his own little war. Artillery employed in this static role was not
organized into batteries or battalions. Thirty to forty guns were
grouped under a small headquarters staff responsible for their
administrative and logistical support.
Though the French employed their artillery primarily in a static
role, they also had regular artillery battalions organized as division
artillery. In early 1951, as Viet Minh operations approached con­
ventional proportions, the French emphasized employment of these
battalions in a conventional manner. But this offensive application
of artillery was too little and too late to have any effect on the
outcome of the war.
The defensive posture that the French adopted for their guns
was readily copied by the South Vietnamese. Weapons were placed
in static positions throughout the countryside, where they often
remained for years at a time, and seldom were used to support
offensive operations. A purely defensive role was disheartening;
one could never win on the defensive but could only hold off an
attack or lose. A defensive attitude came to permeate the ranks at
all levels and resulted in operating procedures that would seem
ridiculous to anyone who seriously intended to win. Mortars were
withheld from outposts where they might do some good because
of the illogical reasoning that the outposts might be overrun and
the weapons seized. Certain types of special ammunition and mines
were withheld for the same reasons. It could only be unsettling to
the morale of the defenders that they were denied weapons that
might save their lives.
This is not to deny that a system of scattered artillery outposts
to provide area coverage was valid in itself. Hamlets, government
compounds, and lines of communication required continuous ar­

ARVN GUN SECTION. Typical 105-mm. position within a hamlet in

Kontum Province, September 1963.

tillery protection. Still, after years of occupying static positions,

methods of effectively employing artillery offensively were all but
forgotten. Artillery not placed in static outposts was often held in
unit motor pools when it should have been used to support ongoing
operations or to relieve other artillery that could be so used. Ar­
tillery advisers relentlessly pushed their counterparts to move their
howitzers out of the motor pools and their mortars out of arms
rooms and, wherever possible, to move their guns out of the static
outposts to support ground operations.
From 1961 to 1965 there were some changes toward a more
offensive spirit on the part of the Vietnamese artillery. Major
General Charles J. Timmes, Chief MAAG, Vietnam, noted in
June 1964 that there was less hoarding of weapons in motor pools
and more of a tendency toward employing all available weapons in
the field. He gave much of the credit for the improvement to field
artillery advisers. In addition, a U.S. Army contact team noted in
a report written in early 1965 that artillery weapons were being

used frequently to support South Vietnamese Army operations and

that there was little hesitation to move weapons in support of those
operations. However, the same report noted that most often only
two guns were used to support a battalion-size operation. The re­
port was also critical of the fact that once a platoon of two guns
was moved and emplaced to support an operation, it was seldom
moved again throughout the duration of the operation.
Another poor operational practice was overcontrol of the ar­
tillery commander by the supported maneuver commander. The
Vietnamese followed the strictest interpretation of the French ar­
tillery commander's relationship to the ground commanders. At
regimental level, the infantry commander actually commanded
artillery assigned to his support. This alone was not necessarily a
bad practice. U.S. artillery doctrine permits it, particularly, as was
often the case in Vietnam, when both maneuver and supporting
forces are some distance from their parent units on semi-
independent operations. Given the command of his supporting
artillery, however, the Vietnamese ground commander had a ten­
dency to over-involve himself in the details of its employment. He
often selected weapon positions and required that the artillery
obtain permission from him before firing. As a result, corps and
division artillery commanders were powerless to influence the ac­
tion through their subordinate artillery headquarters, which were
controlled by the supported commanders. They could only make
recommendations on the employment of their weapons to their
respective corps or division commanders. If the recommendations
were accepted, they were passed on as orders through ground com­
mand channels. Subordinate maneuver commanders were then re­
sponsible for the execution of the orders. Artillery battalion com­
manders had no more power than their superiors to influence the
action of their batteries other than to make recommendations to
their supported ground commanders. A more efficient use of the
system would have been for the infantry commander to give only
general guidance to his artillery on how best to support his maneu­
ver plan. The artillery commander, the more knowlegeable of the
two on fire support matters, then would have the freedom and
flexibility necessary to deliver the most responsive support. Un­
fortunately, Vietnamese infantry commanders were leary of giving
their subordinates such leeway.
Artillery advisers were justifiably critical of Vietnamese firing
procedures. Again, Vietnamese ideas reflected past exposure to
French techniques. The French forward observer computed firing
data mentally and sent them directly to the guns. The data were
not accurate but the system was speedy. The U.S. observer sent

his request for a fire mission to a fire direction center, where more
accurate data could be computed and sent to the guns. Whereas
French procedures were fast, U.S. procedures were accurate. Ar­
guments could be made for either system, but accuracy would
appear to be preferable in a situation in which targets were small,
only two or three guns were likely to be within range, and the
enemy was on foot. The U.S. fire direction center was adopted,
but the information required to give accuracy to firing data was
not available. The required registrations, surveys, and calibrations
were not conducted and meteorological information was not avail­
able. The result was that Vietnamese procedures were neither fast
nor accurate.
But Vietnamese artillery was not completely ineffective. Prisoner
interrogations revealed that the enemy grudgingly respected ARVN
artillery and intentionally planned attacks in areas that were beyond
its range. Then, too, there were hopeful, though isolated, examples
of South Vietnamese artillery operating aggressively and achieving
outstanding results. One such example was Operation DAN THANG
106 during the period 15-22 April 1963. Field artillery supporting
the operation moved 110 times and fired 1,007 missions. One artil­
lery concentration was credited with killing 60 Viet Cong.
Vietnamese artillery nonetheless had a long way to go, and to
the advisers there were as many disquieting signs as there were hope­
ful ones. The ARVN operation at Ap Bac, a small village in the
Mekong Delta, was bitter evidence of the weakness of the artillery.
Too long in static positions and dependent on slipshod firing pro­
cedures, the artillery in this case showed itself to be unequal to the
task of providing responsive support to offensive ground operations.
The attack against Ap Bac in January 1963 was well conceived
but poorly executed. It was to be a three-pronged attack, including
mechanized infantry, and was designed not only to surprise the Viet
Cong but also to trap him and pin him down. Once the enemy was
surrounded, government forces would tighten the circle and destroy
him with all available fire support from small arms to tactical air
power. Open rice land to the east of Ap Bac was left unguarded. The
decision was that if the enemy attempted to escape in that direction,
he would make an excellent target for aircraft and artillery. As the
joint ground and air assault was launched, the Viet Cong 514th
Battalion reinforced by local guerrilla forces made attempts to es­
cape the closing trap but was checked in every case. With all ave­
nues of escape closed, the Viet Cong withdrew into the village, dug
in, and prepared to fight even though they were outnumbered and
Problems started when areas near helicopter landing zones were

not cleared by preparatory artillery fire. Enemy gunners shot down

five helicopters with intensive automatic small-arms fire, which
could have been neutralized by an adequate artillery preparation.
Poor leadership, lack of aggressiveness by the South Vietnamese,
incorrect and unco-ordinated use of the armored personnel carriers,
and the unwillingness of the Vietnamese commanders to listen to
their advisers caused the assault to slow and halt. Reinforcements
were parachuted in but were not employed correctly. Night set in,
and the Viet Cong picked up their weapons and casualties and es­
caped through the leaky trap set by the ground forces. Artillery was
not fired during the night to hold the enemy in position; instead, the
next morning the Vietnamese cut loose with an unobserved artillery
barrage into the village and killed government soldiers. When
the battlefield was searched, only three enemy bodies were found.
Reports from the field attempted to declare this controversial battle
a victory for the South Vietnamese. It was not.

The Adviser Learns, Too

Although the Vietnamese displayed significant weaknesses in
certain aspects of the employment of their artillery, at the same
time they demonstrated a considerable degree of ingenuity. They
had been fighting essentially the same enemy for several decades
and had developed or copied from the French various employment
concepts that were particularly well suited to the peculiarities of
their situation. Their country and the enemy presented a situation
the likes of which the U.S. Army had not faced since the Indian
wars. Artillery advisers were in a position to learn from their coun­
terparts as much as if not more than their counterparts could learn
from them. What advisers learned and reported to their superiors
was later invaluable in the employment of U.S. artillery.
Advisers learned, for instance—as their counterparts knew all
along, that artillery could not be responsive if it had to be moved
into supporting distance after a hamlet was attacked. A majority
of the enemy's attacks were of small scale and lasted for only a short
time. They normally terminated before artillery could be posi­
tioned. Even worse, the enemy could easily plan an effective am­
bush of any artillery convoy that was rushing to the relief of a
hamlet. The artillery had to be pre-positioned throughout the
countryside so that the maximum number of hamlets would be
under the protective umbrella of one or more weapons. The amount
of artillery available and the number of positions to be occupied
dictated that only two or three weapons, rather than a full battery,
could occupy a single position. This piecemeal application of artil­

lery was contrary to everything U.S. artillerymen had learned rela­

tive to the employment of field artillery; past wars had shown that
artillery was most effective when the fires of entire battalions could
be massed against the enemy. But in the past area coverage was not
Cannons in this environment could be called on to fire in any
direction. Artillerymen were quick to term this a "6,400" mil envi­
ronment, the mil being the angular measurement used by the artil­
lery with 6,400 mils in a complete circle. Procedures to shift fires
quickly from one direction to another had been developed by the
French and passed on to the Vietnamese, who made further
refinements. The French routinely constructed in their outposts cir­
cular gun pits and protective parapets, which allowed the guns to be
swung in all directions while providing protection for their crews.
Sufficient markers of known azimuth were located around the gun
emplacements to provide convenient reference points no matter in
what direction the guns were to fire. The Vietnamese adopted in
their fire direction centers a circular firing chart that was several
times the size of a normal chart but permitted the computation of
fire missions in any direction.
The adviser also learned that the use of scattered outposts re­
quired a host of changes to what he had considered normal operat­
ing procedures. Wire communications could be cut or tapped easily
and could be used only within outpost perimeters. Radio, previ­
ously considered a backup system, became predominant. Another
change was that infantry was required to protect artillery positions.
This placed restrictions on the artillery that American advisers had
not experienced. Artillery commanders, at best, were required to
consider the availability of infantry protection in planning each of
their moves. At worst, artillery movements could be totally con­
trolled by an unwise infantry commander, who could deny protec­
tion if artillery did not move when and where he desired. Still
another change was that each outpost had to be able to direct its
own fire. U.S. Army doctrine said that fires would be directed from
battalion fire direction centers, with backup provided by the firing
battery. With his batteries spread over wide areas, the battalion
commander was too far removed from the action to have a full
appreciation of each local situation. Commanders of batteries or
their platoons were in the best position to establish priorities and
decide what targets to engage.
Advisers could not but be impressed with the innovative tech­
niques devised by the Vietnamese that enabled a hamlet to call for
artillery fire. In the initial years of the American advisory buildup,
hamlets and villages were not equipped with radios but requested


placement to defend local populace.

fires by prearranged signals such as colored flares. A hamlet was

given four flares of different colors, each color representing a car­
dinal point. Red might represent north; green, south. If the hamlet
was attacked, its defenders fired a flare of the color that indicated
the direction of the enemy attack. From the outposts, data were
computed and guns fired at various preplotted points on the appro­
priate side of the hamlet. Another signal was a large wooden arrow
lit with kerosene at night and swung horizontally to point in the
direction of an enemy attack. This procedure required that the
supporting artillery outpost be at a higher elevation than the ham­
let and in a position to see the arrow. As radios became available,
they were issued to hamlet officials. An artillery target indicator was
then devised. This was a simple circular board containing the out­
line of the hamlet and the relative locations of preplanned num­
bered concentration points. The operator pointed a rotating arrow
in the direction of the enemy attack to find the azimuth and iden­
tify the point nearest the activity. With a radio the operator could
request fires by concentration numbers and make subsequent cor­
" • • ... . ' • ' • : • ' : . • • • '•:' . • . ••'• ' . ••' • .


EARLY MOVEMENT OF ARTILLERY BY AIR. CH-34 with 105-mm. carnage.

The Vietnamese had moved their fire support weapons by heli­

copter to support combat operations several years before U.S. com­
bat units were committed in Vietnam. True, procedures for such
movement had been developed and rehearsed by U.S. Army troops
stationed in the United States, and it was largely American advisers
who taught the procedures; further, the Vietnamese used U.S. heli­
copters and pilots. Even so, this was the airmobility concept in its
infancy and advisers could only profit from the experience. The
CH-34 (then called the H-34) helicopter could lift the 105-mm.
howitzer under normal conditions. Unfortunately, atmospheric con­
ditions and mountainous terrain in Vietnam greatly restricted lift­
ing capacity. The solution was to strip the 580-pound shield from
the weapon and leave it behind. Then the weapon was dismantled
into two separate helicopter loads—the tube and the carriage.
Both parts were lifted by sling from an external hook on the bottom
of the aircraft.
The 4.2-inch mortar, being considerably lighter than the 105­
mm. howitzer, was easier to move by helicopter and probably was


moved at least as often, though there are no records to support this

assumption. One such move of particular significance was made on
5 May 1963. Three mortars of the South Vietnamese 25th Battal­
ion (advised by Captain Theodore F. Smith) were moved by H-21
helicopters north of Bong Son into a landing zone well beyond the
range of friendly artillery. Believing they were safe from artillery,
the Viet Cong were caught by surprise and suffered "numerous"
American advisers regained a respect for lightweight towed ar­
tillery weapons in Vietnam. All but forgotten in scenarios pitting
our forces against a sophisticated enemy in Europe, where the
punch of heavier artillery was required, the 105-mm. howitzer
again came to the forefront as the principal Army combat artillery
piece. Although the 105-mm. projectile was much smaller and thus
had less destructive power than the 155-mm. projectile, the 105-mm.
howitzer was easy to manhandle, was helicopter transportable, and
had a high rate of fire. It therefore proved to be the most desirable
U.S. artillery weapon in counterguerrilla operations.
One of the most important lessons learned by field artillery
advisers was that efficient clearance procedures were absolutely
neccessary if artillery was to be at all effective. The necessity for ob­
taining clearance was peculiar to a counterguerrilla operation in
which the enemy operated in and around populated areas. Clear­
ance was often agonizingly slow in coming. The reasons for delay
could be completely valid. For instance, the ground commander
might be unsure of the location of one of his patrols or the responsi­
ble government official might have reason to believe that civilians
were in the target area. On the other hand, the delay could be
totally inexcusable and caused by inefficient clearance procedures
or indifference of the responsible official.
The above are only the more important of countless lessons
learned from the Vietnamese by U.S. artillery advisers. Those ad­
visers who were career soldiers would find themselves returning to
Vietnam before the conclusion of hostilities. Many would be as­
signed to U.S. artillery units and could use profitably much that
they had learned as advisers.
How effective was this early advisory effort? If we judge results
against the established goal of providing assistance necessary for the
South Vietnamese Army to defend its country, we must admit fail­
ure. Throughout the period the army continued to lose its hold on
the country until, in 1965, it was in so tenuous a position that the
United States was forced to intercede with combat troops. (Map 3)
But was the goal a realistic one? Only four years passed from the
time the U.S. advisory commitment was significantly expanded in
BanMeThuot .Due My





0 50 100 MILES
1 I ^ I I



1961 until American combat forces were engaged. Such a short time
can hardly be considered adequate to prepare an army to face an
adversary that would prove itself capable of giving even American
forces a difficult time.
Aside from problems of geography, cultural differences, and
Vietnamese military experience and practices, it must also be
stressed that the overthrow of President Diem on 1 November 1963
occurred in the midst of the advisory effort. His government had
been slow and plodding, reflecting the many checks he had built
into the government machinery to keep ambitious subordinates in
rein. But Diem had kept a firm grip on the country that had con­
tributed to cohesiveness and unity of purpose. In the aftermath of
the coup, however, came a series of military and civil power grabs
that for the better part of a year disrupted the government to the
point that only the most routine matters could be concluded. Unity
of purpose was sacrificed to personal advancement and gain.
But regardless of these problems, the advisory period was use­
ful. It ended with a better led and better trained South Vietnamese
fighting force, although room for improvement remained. The U.S.
advisers can also be credited with having helped the South Viet­
namese Army ride out the aftermath of the coup. The advisory or­
ganization remained functional even when the Vietnamese military
or government organizations were not; in emergencies, for example,
advisers could appeal to their superiors to help cut red tape and
effect the release of needed supplies or reinforcements.1 And in gen­
eral, what the advisers learned and reported over the four years
gave U.S. combat commanders an advance appreciation of the sit­
uation as well as insights into the tactics, organizations, and weapons
most appropriate to defeat the enemy.
The advisory effort continued after U.S. combat troops were
committed. Indeed, the success of these troops gave advisers more
time to help the Vietnamese defend their country.
Interestingly enough, the Vietnamese field artillery played a significant role in
Diem's overthrow. Apparently the artillery was directed to tie down the palace guards
and not to damage the U.S. Embassy across the street from where the guards were
billeted. Field artillery was positioned some 10,000 meters northwest of Saigon and a
forward observer was positioned down the street from the palace guard quarters. The
battalion cpmmander had no accurate plot of their quarters; he used a tourist map
to establish a grid location. The first round fired was smoke and was a target hit. The
battery continued to fire the one gun with high-explosive projectiles and destroyed
the top of the structure. No one was killed, yet the guards were neutralized and forced
to withdraw to the cellar for protection. The field artillery had been employed with
surgical precision. Not even a window was shattered in the U.S. Embassy. (The di­
vision commander was then General Nguyen Van Thieu.)

In Order To Win

By late 1964 it was apparent that the South Vietnamese could

not win the war alone despite heavy infusions of U.S. equipment
and advisers. Most of the country was either firmly controlled or
hotly contested by the enemy. The South Vietnamese Army weekly
casualty rate was equivalent to a full battalion, a rate that could not
be long sustained. To complicate matters further, the enemy was
concentrating forces in II Corps Tactical Zone in preparation for a
major offensive to cut the country in half at National Highway 19.
Accordingly, President Lyndon B. Johnson, acting under authority
of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, ordered U.S. combat forces to
South Vietnam. The first troops, U.S. Marines represented by the
9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, arrived on 8 March 1965. They
were followed two months later by the 173d Airborne Brigade.
Combat troops would continue to arrive over the next three years
until the total commitment was equivalent to over ten divisions—
two Marine divisions, seven Army divisions, three separate brigades,
and an armored cavalry regiment plus requisite control headquar­
ters and support.
More than two battalions of field artillery would arrive in Viet­
nam for each combat brigade. One battalion would be in direct
support of each brigade, and the remainder would provide aug­
menting fires or area protection. The very size of the field artillery
indicated that it was being counted on heavily to provide a major
portion of the combat power required to win. Artillerymen at all
levels were challenged to insure that so large and important a force
be employed to its maximum effectiveness.
If field artillery units were to be effective from the outset ot
their introduction to the war, they had to arrive in Vietnam well
trained. In the United States, commanders of field artillery units
alerted for deployment to Vietnam carefully planned and executed
intensive training programs for their troops. There was little time
and much to be done.
A minor part of the total training of all units consisted of in­
struction in subjects applicable to all branches. Headquarters,
United States Continental Army Command, directed that a sixteen­

hour block of instruction consisting of the following subjects be

given to all Vietnam-bound units:
Orientation—2 hours
Perimeter defense—1 hour
Duties of sentries—1 hour
Ambush drill, mounted and dismounted—8 hours
Field sanitation—1 hour
Jungle survival—1 hour
Lessons learned—1 hour
Miscellaneous—1 hour
The remaining training time was devoted to artillery-related
subjects. All field artillery headquarters, from division artillery and
artillery group down, underwent intensive training centered on em­
ploying their units against irregular forces. Battalions conducted
section, battery, and battalion training which culminated, when
possible, in field training exercises to test unit proficiency. Battery
commanders emphasized platoon operations and gunnery and fire
direction procedures in the 6,400-mil environment. They foresaw
the need for additional fire direction center personnel in the event
their battery weapons were split among several locations. As a re­
sult, time permitting, survey and howitzer crews were cross-trained
in fire direction center procedures.
Because of leaves, reassignments, and last-minute arrival of re­
placements, classes and practical exercises often had to be con­
ducted several times to insure that all personnel received the neces­
sary training. Training for all units then continued aboard troop
transports. Classes were presented for two hours daily. They were
followed by twenty to thirty minutes of physical training, con­
ducted during the warmest part of the day in order to acclimatize
soldiers to tropical heat.

The Impact of Vietnam on Field Artillery Organizations

Not in recent history had the U.S. Army faced an insurgent
force of such significance on terrain that so favored the enemy as in
Vietnam. Since the enemy largely dictated how the war would be
fought, it was necessary for the Army to modify established opera­
tional doctrine considerably to be successful against him. These
modifications had a tremendous impact at all organizational levels.
The impact on field artillery organizations is most readily explained
by comparing the tactics used in fighting a conventional war with
the tactics developed in Vietnam.
In a conventional ground war, U.S. maneuver forces are dis­
posed along a line facing the enemy. To the front, security forces

are positioned to warn of the enemy's approach and to delay him

while inflicting maximum punishment. To the rear, additional
maneuver forces are held in reserve by all ground commanders
above company level, and each is committed by its commander
when needed.
Also to the rear are the combat support activities, including the
field artillery, as well as combat service support activities. For the
most part the rear area contains no large enemy forces, so units
operating there are considered sufficiently strong to defend them­
selves. With little enemy ground activity, wire communications are
used extensively in the rear area. Radio is considered a secondary
means of communication, for the most part used by units on the
move. The main threat to the survival of a unit is the enemy's fire
power from aircraft and artillery that can reach behind the front
Most of the available field artillery is used to engage the enemy
forward of front-line maneuver forces; therefore, most artillery
units, though as scattered and dispersed as possible, are disposed
laterally behind the front line. Each maneuver division has artil­
lery to support its ground forces, the composition depending on the
type of division. In most cases the division artillery has three simi­
lar battalions of light or medium cannon artillery, sufficient to sup­
port each of the three brigades of the division, and one or more
additional battalions of heavier artillery to provide augmenting
The division artillery commander supports the division com­
mander's maneuver plan by assigning missions to his artillery bat­
talions and by co-ordinating the employment of all available fire
support, including nondivisional field artillery and fire support
from other branches and services. A field artillery unit can be
assigned to support a single maneuver unit (it is then said to be in
direct support), or it can be employed to augment the fires of other
artillery units. In the latter case, a unit can have a reinforcing mis­
sion, augmenting the fires of a single designated field artillery unit;
a general support mission, augmenting the fires of all field artillery
units of the division; or a general support-reinforcing mission. A
unit on this last mission again augments the fires of all field artil­
lery units but gives priority to reinforcing the fires of a single desig­
nated artillery unit of the division.
Mission assignment has proved to be an extremely effective
method of weighting the main effort of the division and economizing
combat power elsewhere. It has provided the flexibility required
for adjusting fire support to the ever-changing needs of the battle­
field. Mission assignment has been particularly effective in conven­

tional operations, in which units can displace virtually at will to

give maximum support to the ground forces.
In assigning missions to subordinate battalions, the division ar­
tillery commander first places one of his three light battalions in
direct support of each committed brigade. Thus, if the division has
two brigades on line and one in reserve, only the two brigades on
line receive direct support artillery. The division artillery comman­
der than assigns an augmenting mission to the third of this three
similar battalions. Perhaps the most common mission for this bat­
talion is to reinforce the direct support battalion covering the area
of greatest effort or largest threat. At the same time, the reinforcing
battalion is instructed to revert to direct support of the brigade in
reserve when that brigade is committed to battle. The division
artillery commander most commonly places his heavy artillery bat­
talion in general support of the division or in general support-rein­
forcing of the fires of a specific direct support battalion. However
the division artillery commander employs his battalions at the
beginning of an operation, he is free to adjust them at any time to
meet unforeseen developments.
In conventional operations, missions seldom are assigned to ar­
tillery units smaller than battalion. A battalion in direct support of
a brigade supports the entire brigade rather than assigning one of
its batteries to each of the brigade's battalions. To control the fires
of its three batteries, the battalion establishes a centralized fire di­
rection center. Centralized control permits the battalion to bring all
the fires of its batteries to bear at any point in the brigade sector.
This massing of fires is possible because all batteries are likely to be
well within range of the entire brigade front. In fact, combat power
might be so highly concentrated in some instances that all the ar­
tillery of a division can be massed on a single target.
Even so, there are occasions on the conventional battlefield
where firing batteries or battalions are widely separated; for exam­
ple, artillery units might be sent forward to support long-range
screening or covering force operations, or units might be sent to
support a force on an independent operation. Artillery organiza­
tions and doctrine have provided for such contingencies. Firing bat­
teries have fire direction centers which under normal conditions
provide backup support of the battalion fire direction center but
act independently where the battery is too distant for its parent
unit to control or support it. When a battery or battalion is distant
from its parent unit, it is normally attached to its supported ma­
neuver unit.
In a conventional battle plan before the Vietnam era, field ar­
tillery doctrine was that sizable amounts of field artillery, in addi­

tion to that organic to division artilleries, are available to support

ground operations. This artillery is organic to a field army and is
organized into separate battalions or groups. (A group controls two
or more battalions.) The field army commander provides additional
combat power to his subordinate corps by assigning his field artil­
lery to them. He can thus effectively weight the combat power of
the corps that he considers to have the highest priority, based on the
mission he has given it. The corps commander receiving artillery
from field army in turn assigns the artillery to augment his sub­
ordinate divisions. He also gives primary consideration to that divi­
sion with the most critical mission.

The war in Vietnam was anything but conventional. The enemy

was not contained by a line of friendly forces. Instead, he operated
throughout the country, mostly in small units, but massing formi­
dable strength when and where he chose. Accordingly, military
ground operations were characterized by numerous, concurrent,
widely dispersed small-unit operations. These tactics permitted
continuous pursuit of the widely scattered enemy. To insure that
the maximum area was defended by available troops, a section of
terrain called an area of operations (AO) was assigned to each
ground unit from the highest level down. A ground force comman­
der conducted operations throughout his assigned area. The two
field force commanders divided their areas, each corresponding to
one of the four South Vietnamese military regions, among their
divisions. The divisions in turn divided their territory into brigade
areas of operations. Brigades split their areas among their battal­
ions; battalions, among their companies.
The wide dispersal of maneuver forces required significant
changes in the employment tactics of supporting artillery. The size
of brigade areas of operations and range limitations of the cannons
prevented a direct support battalion from massing the fires of its
batteries in support of an entire brigade. Instead, artillery was dis­
posed to provide the maximum area coverage, with each of the
three batteries of a battalion in direct support of one of the three
maneuver battalions of the brigade. The infantry battalion com­
mander and the supporting battery commander were jointly re­
sponsible for insuring that the battery was always positioned to
cover adequately all maneuver forces of the battalion.
Fire direction was no longer centralized at field artillery bat­
talion but was decentralized to battery level or, when the battery
was forced to occupy two positions, to platoon level. The primary
justification for centralizing fire direction was the ability to mass

fires. Now that that ability no longer existed, the best place to con­
trol fires was at the battery, where the commander could best appre­
ciate the needs of the supported infantry battalion. Firing batteries
were isolated with their supported battalions. They did not have
the freedom of movement they would have on the conventional
battlefield but moved with their supported infantry battalions and
were protected by these battalions. Wire communications were vul­
nerable, and radios were used exclusively for communicating be­
yond defensive positions. Because of the distances involved, a bat­
tery, without freedom of movement, could do little to support itself
administratively or logistically without increased assistance from its
parent battalion.
Small friendly units operating throughout the area of opera­
tions were difficult to pinpoint and added to the difficulties of pro­
viding supporting fires to ground forces. Artillery forward observers
with maneuver companies continuously transmitted position loca­
tions to the battery, but the terrain made land navigation difficult
and there was always the possibility of a mistake by the forward
observer. Any mistakes could have resulted in friendly casualties.
Out of respect for that danger, an infantry battalion commander
rightfully restricted the activities of his direct support battery until
its men had demonstrated their competence to his satisfaction. This
took several weeks at best. Once his confidence was won, the com­
mander loosened restrictions and the total combat system worked as
it had been designed to work. Fires were planned and executed
within general guidance from the ground commander, who was
then free to devote his attention to the maneuver plan.
The artillery and infantry have always had a close working rela­
tionship, a requirement if maneuver and fire support are to be com­
pletely complementary. This relationship was never closer or more
important than in Vietnam. The artillery battery was isolated with
its supported infantry battalion. Each was dependent on the other
for survival—the artillery for protection, the infantry for support­
ing fires. The relationship was further strengthened by a policy of
"habitual association" of a direct support battalion with a specific
brigade and each battery of the battalion with a specific maneuver
The policy of habitual association was logical and easily execu­
ted. Every maneuver brigade was committed to the defense of an
area of operations; none was placed in reserve. For that reason, each
of the three light battalions of division artillery was always in direct
support of a brigade. So rigidly was the policy of habitual associa­
tion enforced that an artillery battalion and its associated brigade

often entered the country at the same time, remained together

throughout their involvement there, and withdrew from Vietnam
or stood down together.
Vietnam also had its impact on the activities of the division ar­
tillery. With each of his light battalions in direct support of a ma­
neuver brigade, the division artillery commander was powerless to
vary their tactical mission or otherwise rearrange the support they
provided. The only unit remaining with which he could influence
the action was his heavy battalion, which generally consisted of
three 155-mm. batteries and an 8-inch battery. He would direct the
batteries of the heavy battalion to provide additional fires where
he thought they were most needed. Often one of his 155-mm. bat­
teries was committed to the direct support of the division cavalry
squadron, reducing his flexibility to influence the action even more.
Furthermore, distances and the situation prevented the division ar­
tillery commander from utilizing his remaining artillery as respon­
sively as he could in conventional operations. Heavy artillery was
positioned in advance of an operation and moved only infrequently,
if at all.
Since the capability to influence the battle at division artillery
level was reduced, the work load normally associated with the capa­
bility was also reduced. Yet as the responsibilities of the division
artillery commander were lessened in one area, they were increased
in others. The wide dispersal of artillery units increased the prob­
lems of supply and maintenance, and staff officers were kept busy
seeking ways to increase the support the battalions could provide to
their batteries. Trucks and helicopters for hauling supplies were
sought out and requested. Needed maintenance and administrative
support was arranged for battalions to send to isolated batteries. In
addition, the division artillery commander was responsible for con­
tributing forces, weapons, and equipment to the defense of the divi­
sion base camp or for directing the entire base camp defense. Also,
because winning the support of the population was so important to
the success of a counterguerrilla war, added emphasis was placed on
civil affairs and the work load in that area expanded considerably.
Division artillery staffs were augmented with an officer to plan and
direct civil affairs activities and to co-ordinate those of subordinate
The work load of the division artillery commander in other
areas was much the same as it had always been. He was still the ad­
viser to the division commander on fire support matters. Intelli­
gence had to be gathered and collated continuously and actions of
division maneuver forces and artillery updated. A fire support ele­
ment at division had to be established to support ongoing maneuver

operations. And the use of nondivisional fire support means, includ­

ing field artillery, Air Force tactical air and strategic bombers, and
naval air and naval gunfire, had to be planned, requested, and co­
As in conventional operations, there were large amounts of field
artillery in addition to that organic to divisions; however, the man­
ner in which it was organized and employed was vastly different. In
a conventional operation, nondivisional field artillery normally is at
the field army level and is apportioned to corps on the basis of
their needs. United States Army, Vietnam (USARV), was orga­
nized into two field forces and a separate corps. The field force, a
new organization to the Army, was roughly equivalent in level of
command to a corps but had greatly expanded supply and adminis­
trative responsibilities. The corps, on the other hand, was a tactical
headquarters and its lean staff could only co-ordinate logistical
activities. In Vietnam, field artillery was assigned on a permanent
basis to each of the field forces and the separate corps. This practice
recognized that the requirements of each command tended to re­
main stable and that the long distances involved precluded contin­
uous shifting of artillery from one field force to another. The
stability of artillery requirements of the two field forces and the
separate corps was a result of the mission assigned to nondivisional
artillery. Whereas divisional artillery supported specific U.S. ma­
neuver operations, nondivisional artillery served in an area support
role, a role that was new to the field artillery yet vital under the
Of overriding importance in Vietnam, as in any counterguer­
rilla action, was winning the support of the people for their govern­
ment. They had to be shown that the government could improve
their lot as well as protect them from the insurgent. Field force ar­
tillery firing units were positioned to provide maximum coverage
of population centers, lines of communication, and government in­
stallations. Firing units answered calls for fire support from any
friendly party, civil or military, within range. The position loca­
tion of each unit had to be carefully planned in relation to the posi­
tion locations of all others. This planning was done at field force
level. In past wars commanders at such high levels were not con­
cerned with the positioning of individual firing units; subordinate
artillery commanders had the authority to decide within liberal
territorial limitations where units could best be placed to perform
their mission. But in Vietnam much of the responsibility for posi­
tioning their units was taken from them.
As was true of division artillery, commanders of groups and bat­
talions in field force artillery had increased work loads in other

areas as a result of added logistical support problems and civil

affairs and position defense responsibilities. Also, the role of non-
divisional artillery created a requirement for continuous dialogue
with local government representatives and supported military and
paramilitary forces. Such dialogue was necessary not only for the
artillery to do its job but also for its survival. Firing units providing
area cover were often far from U.S. maneuver forces and had to
turn to the Vietnamese for protection.
Commanders of both division and field force artillery in Viet­
nam continued the practice of providing fire support through mis­
sion assignment, though the meanings applied to the missions were
somewhat changed. Since units were so widely dispersed, a single
artillery unit normally could not be positioned to augment the fires
of several other artillery units. Instead, general support became
area coverage. For units of divisional artillery, area coverage placed
primary importance on plugging gaps in the coverage of direct
support units. For units of field force artillery, area coverage placed
primary importance on supporting all friendly forces within range
of their positions. Thus, quite contrary to its normal meaning, the
mission of general support was often given to a unit that had no
other field artillery within range. The meaning of the reinforcing
mission changed little. Reinforcing artillery still augmented the
fires of a specific artillery unit. General support-reinforcing artil­
lery was positioned to augment the fires of a specific field artillery
unit but otherwise provided area coverage.
Another change occurred in respect to batteries too distant from
their parent battalions to receive control or support. Practice in the
past had been to attach such batteries to their supported maneuver
battalions, but in Vietnam such an arrangement was not fully satis­
factory. Maneuver commanders had neither the equipment nor the
expertise to support artillery units adequately, particularly for
lengthy operations. And field artillery commanders, who were
schooled and experienced in the employment of artillery to serve
the maneuver forces best, were unable to influence the situation.
Instead of attachment, the status of operational control (OPCON)
was most often used. For example, if a firing battery was to be sepa­
rated from its parent headquarters, it was placed under the opera­
tional control of another artillery battalion headquarters in the area
in which the battery was employed. A battery that was under the
operational control of a field artillery battalion was controlled by
that battalion but continued to receive support from its parent bat­
talion. Maneuver commanders could then receive the best possible
fire support without being burdened with additional support re­

Though operational control served a useful purpose, its use

complicated operations of battalions with both divisional and non-
divisional artillery. At any one time, one battalion might be con­
trolling its own three batteries plus several others that were under
its operational control. Another battalion might have lost the op­
erational control of all its organic batteries to another battalion.
Artillery battalions had to be flexible enough to direct the opera­
tions of a varying number of batteries.
On numerous occasions artillery units were employed in ways
quite contrary to the general practice that had been developed in
Vietnam. Division artillery normally supported divisional maneu­
ver forces whereas field force artillery served in an area support
role. Yet on any one day during the height of the U.S. commitment,
one could point out numerous cases in which roles were re­
versed. For example, when division artillery supported divisional
maneuver units in such rugged terrain that its organic 155-mm. self-
propelled howitzers could not follow, the division artillery
commander might be provided with airmobile 155-mm. towed how­
itzers from field force artillery for the duration of the operation.
There were also frequent occasions when field force artillery units
were placed in direct support of maneuver units, and many times
division artillery units provided area support.

Fire Support Co-ordination

The responsibility for co-ordinating the various types of fires
available to the maneuver commander falls largely on the field ar­
tillery. At all maneuver headquarters above company level, an ar­
tillery fire support co-ordinator (FSCOORD) is responsible for
co-ordinating all available fire power—field artillery, armed heli­
copters, Air Force and Naval tactical air, air defense weapons in the
ground support role, and naval gunfire. In addition, an infantry bat­
talion commander often delegates responsibility for co-ordinating
the battalion heavy mortar fire to his co-ordinator. At maneuver com­
pany, the company commander is the fire support co-ordinator
though a field artillery forward observer is available to aid and
advise him. At maneuver battalion the co-ordinator is a liaison offi­
cer from the direct support field artillery battalion. At higher levels
he is the commander of the artillery supporting the force; how­
ever, in practice he delegates the detailed co-ordination activities to
a subordinate. The artillery battalion commander delegates the
duty to the artillery liaison officer with the brigade. The division
and corps (or field force) artillery commanders delegate the duty to
an assistant co-ordinator. Within each of the operation centers of

maneuver forces, a co-ordinator establishes and supervises a fire sup­

port co-ordination activity, called a fire support co-ordination center
(FSCC) at battalion and brigade level and a fire support element
(FSE) at division and higher. In the center are representatives of
all available fire support units. Some representatives are not in­
cluded in the fire support element, being normally found elsewhere
in the tactical operations center; but their presence in the center
still allows efficient co-ordination.
The field artillery liaison officer (now titled the fire support
officer) with either a maneuver battalion or brigade was tasked in
Vietnam as never before. Because of advances in weapon technol­
ogy, more types of fire support were available. To complicate mat­
ters, each type of fire support could deliver a host of different
munitions, each designed for a different job. The field artillery liai­
son officer was the one who insured that the most appropriate ord­
nance available arrived at the right targets at a specified time and
that all the fires delivered complemented one another. Besides hav­
ing more weapons to co-ordinate, he often had to support not only
U.S. Army forces but also Vietnamese military and paramilitary,
Korean, Australian, Thai, New Zealand, Philippine, and U.S.
Marine forces during joint operations. That task required more
than processing and passing requests to the appropriate support
means; it required establishing priorities as well as insuring that
the organic fires of the other force were co-ordinated with the sup­
port being requested. This frequently called for him or an Army
forward observer to be on the scene to request and direct or co­
ordinate the fires. His efforts were further complicated by differ­
ences in language and in operating procedures.
As if such complications were not enough, he was required to
obtain clearance to insure that no civilians were in the area before
employing weapons. Clearance was most often obtained from the
government district in which the supported force was operating,
and arrangements had to be made to open and maintain the neces­
sary radio nets in advance of an operation. Clearance had not been
required in past U.S. wars, in which the enemy was engaged for­
ward of a battle line and was not operating among the friendly
population. Another responsibility of the liaison officer that was
peculiar to Vietnam was the co-ordination of air space usage. Artil­
lery warning control centers (AWCC's) were established, normally
at maneuver battalion and brigade levels, to advise the numerous
aircraft over the area qi operation of current supporting fires. All
support means were required to notify the warning center before
firing. Aircraft entering the area would, in turn, contact the center

and receive current information plus a flight path to follow to avoid


Field Artillery Weapons

The wide variances in the types of field artillery weapons sent
to Vietnam gave senior artillery commanders great flexibility in
tailoring fire support to satisfy best the needs of the situation.
The 105-mm. towed howitzer most often served in the direct
support role. Its light weight, dependability, and high rate of fire
made it the ideal weapon for moving with light infantry forces and
responding quickly with high volumes of close-in fire. Units were
initially equipped with the M101A1 howitzer, virtually the same
105-mm. howitzer that had been used to support U.S. forces since
World War II. In 1966 a new 105-mm. towed howitzer, the M102,
was received in Vietnam. The first M102's were issued to the 1st
Battalion, 21st Field Artillery, in March 1966. Replacement of the
old howitzers continued steadily over the next four years.
Many of the more seasoned artillerymen did not want the old
cannon replaced. Over the years they had become familiar with its
every detail and were confident that it would not disappoint them
in the clutch. Old Redlegs could offer some seemingly convincing
reasons why the M101 was still the superior weapon: its waist-high
breech made it easier to load; it had higher ground clearance when
in tow; but most important, it was considerably less expensive than
the M102. Their arguments, however, were futile. The new Ml02
was by far the better weapon. It weighed little more than li/£ tons
whereas the M101A1 weighed approximately 2i/2 tons; as a result,
more ammunition could be carried during heliborne operations,
and a %-ton truck rather than a 2i/2-ton truck was its prime mover
for ground operations. Another major advantage of the M102 was
that it could be traversed a full 6,400 mils. The M101A1 had a
limited on-carriage traverse, which required its trails (stabilizing
legs) to be shifted if further traverse was necessary. A low silhou­
ette made the new weapon a more difficult target for the enemy, an
advantage that far outweighed the disadvantage of being somewhat
less convenient to load.
Certain field force artillery units were equipped with the M108,
a 105-mm. self-propelled weapon. The weapon was obsolescent but
was still in the U.S. field artillery inventory. In Germany, it had
been replaced by the 155-mm. self-propelled howitzer as the direct
support artillery for U.S. armored and mechanized divisions. The
M108 was too heavy to be lifted by helicopter, so its support of

highly mobile light infantry forces in Vietnam was restricted. Still,

the Ml08 was employed effectively in the area support role and, if
the terrain permitted, in support of ground operations.
The next larger caliber artillery weapons were the 155-mm.
howitzers. Firing units were equipped with either the towed
M114A1 or the self-propelled M109. Both weapons normally pro­
vided area coverage or augmented direct support artillery. Occa­
sionally, however, the 155-mm. self-propelled howitzer was used in
direct support of maneuver units, as with the 1st Brigade, 5th Mech­
anized Division. Or when a divisional cavalry squadron operated as
an entity, it was often provided a 155-mm. battery for direct
support. Like the M108, the towed M114A1 was considered obsoles­
cent. It was no match for the 155-mm. self-propelled weapon for
supporting conventional ground operations against a highly mo­
bile, armor-heavy enemy. In Vietnam, however, the M114A1
proved invaluable because it was light enough to be displaced by
helicopter and so could provide medium artillery support to in­
fantry forces even where roads were nonexistent. The 155-mm. how­
itzers, whether towed or self-propelled, had a maximum range of
14,600 meters, over 3,000 meters greater than that of the 105-mm.
howitzer. The weight of the 105-mm. projectile—95 pounds—was
almost three times the weight of the 105-mm. projectile. For these
reasons, the 155-mm. howitzers could provide a welcome additional
punch to existing direct support weapons.
The M107 self-propelled 175-mm. gun and the MHO 8-inch
howitzer had identical carriages but different tubes. The 175-mm.
gun fired a 174-pound projectile almost 33 kilometers. This impres­
sive range made it a valuable weapon for providing an umbrella of
protection over large areas. The 8-inch howitzer fired a 200-pound
projectile almost 17 kilometers, plus being the most accurate
weapon in the field artillery. The 8-inch howitzer was found with
most division artilleries, and both the 8-inch howitzer and 175-mm.
gun were with field force artillery. At field force the proportion of 8­
inch and 175-mm. weapons varied. Since the weapons had identical
carriages, the common practice was to install those tubes that best
met the current tactical needs. One day a battery might be 175­
mm.; a few days later it might be half 175-mm. and half 8-inch.
Aerial rocket artillery (ARA) proved to be extremely effective
in augmenting and extending the range of the cannon artillery of
the airmobile divisions. Aerial rocket artillery units initially em­
ployed the UH-1B or UH-1C (Huey) helicopter equipped with a
weapon system that could carry and fire forty-eight 2.75-inch rock­
ets. In early 1968 the improved AH-1G (Huey Cobra) was out­
fitted as an aerial rocket artillery aircraft. Its maximum speed of


130 knots was some 30 knots faster than that of the Huey. In
addition, it carried a larger payload of 76 rockets. In early 1970 the
designation of aerial rocket artillery was changed to aerial field
artillery (AFA). By either name, it was in every sense a field ar­
tillery weapon system, organized as such and controlled by artillery­
men through artillery fire support channels.

Field Artillery Mobility

The importance of mobility in insurgency operations cannot be
too highly stressed. From experience in past guerrilla actions in
Malaya and the Philippines, the conclusion was that at least ten
soldiers are required to counter every enemy soldier. The ratio is
high because the enemy has the initiative. He can hit wherever he
desires and thus require that friendly forces be ready in sufficient
numbers at all locations likely to be contested. Once the enemy has
attacked and withdrawn, sizable forces are needed to sweep the
countryside if there is to be any hope of finding him. Superior mo­
bility allows the available friendly units to be more widely de­
ployed and permits planners to reduce the ratio of friendly to


enemy troops. For example, a highly mobile infantry battalion and

its supporting battery could complete an operation in one area and
in a matter of hours be moved to another some distance away.
Mobility in Vietnam for ground troops and artillery alike was
provided by ground vehicles, Air Force assault aircraft, watercraft,
and helicopters. More artillery was moved by road than by any
other means. When a landing zone could be conveniently reached
by road, it was to a unit's benefit to move in this fashion if opera­
tional considerations did not dictate otherwise. The unit could be
moved in convoy by its own vehicles and in its entirety, whereas
movement by helicopter usually required several lifts. Because of
its weight, all self-propelled artillery was moved in convoy. The Air
Force, usually employing C-130's, supported long-distance moves
between improved or unimproved airstrips. Watercraft transported
both infantry and artillery in the delta areas, where a network of
rivers, rivulets, and canals favored such movement.
The Vietnam war saw the first large-scale use of helicopters by
the U.S. Army to transport troops, artillery, and supplies. Heli­
copters added a new dimension to the battlefield by providing the


support base, J. J. Carroll contained jour firing units.

commander a more responsive and flexible means to concentrate

his combat power where it was needed.
Before 1962, the helicopter had been used sparingly, but
through the imagination and drive of several key officers, notably
Generals James M. Gavin and Hamilton H. Howze, the airmobile
concept was developed. They envisioned the deployment of lightly
equipped troops by lift helicopters, with fire support to and within
the objective area provided by light tube artillery and armed heli­
copters. What airmobile troops lacked in weight they would com­
pensate for with mobility. They were planned for use against a
sophisticated enemy where highly mobile forces have always been
needed. Covering force and screening operations, economy-of-force
missions, flank and rear area security, and securing of key terrain,
bridges, and installations behind enemy lines were a few possible
applications. In 1962 the Airmobility Requirement Board (com­
monly known as the Howze Board) was formed to develop orga­
nizational requirements for an airmobile brigade. The efforts of the
board resulted in the activation of the 11th Air Assault Division,
which was redesignated the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in
June 1965 and programed for deployment to Vietnam. Though the
division was initially configured for use in a sophisticated environ­

STAR FORMATION. Battery B, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery, in

well-prepared base camp.

merit, it proved to be extremely effective in Vietnam against an

unsophisticated enemy.
The airmobile division artillery was equipped with 105-mm.
towed howitzers and UH-1B (Huey) helicopters armed with rock­
ets. Howitzers were lifted by the division's own CH^47A (Chinook)
medium-lift helicopters. The Chinook could carry 33 combat
troops and internal cargo up to 78 inches high, 90 inches wide, and
366 inches long or external cargo of 6,000 to 8,000 pounds, depend­
ing on atmospheric conditions. A 105-mm. howitzer battery with a
basic load of ammunition could be moved in as few as 11 CH-47A
sorties. Other maneuver units that followed the 1st Cavalry Divi­
sion also used Chinooks extensively to move their howitzers; how­
ever, with the exception of the 101st Airborne Division these
helicopters were not part of the divisions but were provided by
aviation groups supporting the military regions. Every infantry unit
in Vietnam was, in fact if not in name, airmobile infantry and its
direct support artillery was airmobile artillery.
The CH-54 (Tarhe), nicknamed the Crane for its lifting abil­
ity, followed the Chinook to Vietnam. It could lift up to 18,000

pounds either by sling or by an attachable pod, but sling loads were

by far the more common in Vietnam. Of special importance to the
field artillery was the Crane's capacity to lift the 155-mm. towed
howitzer without breaking it down into two separate loads as was
required for the CH-47 helicopter. This would expedite the posi­
tioning of medium artillery in areas not accessible by road.

The Fire Base

Cannon artillery is the only nonorganic fire support serving ma­
neuver forces that is immediately responsive, always available, and
totally reliable. It is immediately responsive because it is positioned
to be always within range of the supported force, whereas other
fire support means most often must be brought to the battle area or
moved within range. It is always available because it is organized to
provide field artillery in direct support of every committed maneu­
ver force. A maneuver commander may not always receive other
fire power because it is apportioned according to the needs of all
commanders. It is totally reliable because it can function in any
weather and in poor visibility, when helicopters and planes are
grounded or their effectiveness is reduced.
Infantry commanders fully appreciated the value of field artil­
lery support. In developing their maneuver plans, they worked
closely with their supporting artillery commanders to insure that
the plans could be fully supported by the artillery. If plans envi­
sioned that maneuver battalions would be so widely dispersed that
they could not be supported by direct support batteries operating
from single battery positions, additional artillery was requested. If
additional artillery was unavailable, the direct support batteries
were split to occupy several positions and thereby increase area
coverage even though fire power was reduced. Only on rare occa­
isons did maneuver forces in Vietnam operate beyond the range of
friendly artillery.
Use of available mobility allowed direct support artillery to fol­
low supported ground forces virtually anywhere. But once field ar­
tillery was displaced to a preplanned position to provide supporting
fires, it was extremely vulnerable to the enemy, who could attack in
mass from any direction. Firing batteries had neither the personnel
nor the expertise to defend their positions against determined
enemy attacks. Accordingly, infantry units provided defensive
troops. The position jointly occupied by supporting artillery and
defending infantry was referred to as a fire base or fire support base.
It was commanded by either an infantryman or an artilleryman,
usually whoever was the senior. From its fire base an artillery fire



unit could shoot in any direction to its maximum range and would
answer calls for fire support from maneuver forces operating under
its protective umbrella.
The position for a fire base was selected jointly by the artillery
and infantry commanders. The primary concern of the artillery
commander was that the position be adequate to support maneuver
elements throughout the area of operation. An important consid­
eration was the availability of other artillery within range of the
position that, if required, could be called on to provide indirect
fire in defense of the fire base. Other important considerations were
the type of soil to support the howitzers and how readily the posi­
tion could be defended and supplied by air. The primary concern
of the infantry commander was defense of the position unless he
intended to establish his headquarters on the fire base to take ad­
vantage of the available security. In that event, he was concerned
that the fire base be central to his maneuver forces so they could
be effectively controlled. This priority was generally agreeable to
the artillery commander, who could provide better all-round cover­
age from such a location.

TYPICAL TOWED 155-MM. POSITION. Note trail blocks.



March 1969.

Because of the manpower drain on maneuver units had they

been required to defend all artillery positions, fire bases were con­
structed almost exclusively for direct support artillery. When such
a fire base was established, it was usually to support a large opera­
tion of at least divisional size or to provide a position when no avail­
able one was even marginally acceptable. Division or field Jiorce
artillery generally chose the best positions for their firing units not
in direct support from among defensive positions already esta­
blished. As a result, such a unit might occupy a fire base with one or
more other artillery units or, for that matter, might occupy any
other type of defensive position belonging to either American or
allied forces. Any commander was happy to have the additional fire
power that a battery would bring to his position.
The organization of a fire base was a reflection of the flexibility
and ingenuity of the American soldier. Terrain, area available,
and number and caliber of weapons, plus numerous other variables,
made it impossible to standardize procedures for occupying such
positions. Still, some generalities can be cited.
The formation of artillery pieces on the ground varied with the


BASE STUART, JUNE 1969. Chain link fence has been installed for pro­
tection against B40 rockets.

terrain and the caliber and number of weapons. Insofar as possible,

weapons were arranged in a pattern with as much depth as width
to eliminate the need for adjusting the pattern of effects on the
ground. Six-gun batteries, which included all 105-mm. and 155-mm.
batteries, were emplaced in a star formation, with five guns de­
scribing the points of the star and the sixth gun in the center. This
configuration provided for an effective pattern of ground bursts and
for all-round defense. At night the center piece could effectively
fire illumination while the other pieces supported with direct fire.
Firing units with only three or four guns arranged their pieces in a
triangular or square pattern, if terrain permitted. The diamond
formation was most commonly used by composite 8-inch and 175­
mm. batteries. The 175-mm. guns were positioned farthest from the
center of the battery, where the fire direction center and adminis­
trative elements were located, thus reducing the effects of blast on
personnel, equipment, and buildings.
The infantry established a perimeter as tight as feasible around
the guns. The desired configuration was a perfect circle, but this
was seldom possible because of the varied terrain to be defended.
Perimeter defensive positions were dug in and bunkered where
possible. To the front, barbed wire was strung and claymore mines
and trip flares were emplaced. Infantry soldiers defended the fire


jack is under center of howitzer, collimator to the rear of howitzer on

base perimeter with their individual rifles and grenade launchers

and with crew-served machine guns and recoilless rifles. In addi­
tion, the infantry was equipped with both 81-mm. and 4.2-inch mor­
tars. Mortars were invaluable for fire base defense, not only for
their heavy volumes of high-explosive fires but also for close-in il­
lumination during enemy night attacks. A fire base was fortunate
if it had air defense weapons on its perimeter. Both the M42A1
"Duster," a dual 40-mm. weapon, and the M55 (quad), four .50­
caliber machine guns fired simultaneously, provided impressive
ground fires, though neither weapon had been designed for that
role. These weapons were organic only to nondivisional air defense
battalions and were not available in sufficient numbers to provide
protection to all fire bases.
The defense responsibilities of the infantry did not end with
the establishment of a strong defensive perimeter. Just as impor­
tant was aggressive and continuous patrolling around the fire base to
frustrate enemy attempts to reconnoiter the base and prepare for an
attack. Usually, a single-battery fire base was provided a rifle com­

pany to man the perimeter and conduct necessary patrols. This pro­
vision was recognized in the organization of infantry battalions in
Vietnam, where each battalion was assigned four rifle companies
instead of only three.
The field artillery on the fire base also contributed to its de­
fense. In fact, the contribution of the artillery was often the decid­
ing factor in staving off a determined attack. Artillery defensive
fires included direct fire, countermortar fire, and mutually sup­
porting fire.
Direct fire, as its name implies, required line of sight between
weapon and target. It involved the use of special antipersonnel
munitions and techniques. The XM546 antipersonnel projectile,
called the Beehive round, was particularly effective in the direct
fire role. The projectile was filled with over 8,000 flechettes, or
small metal darts. The field artillery direct fire capability was inte­
grated with the infantry defense to cover likely avenues of approach
and the most vulnerable areas. It was imperative that the infantry
bunkers be built up in the rear so that the infantrymen were
protected from the effects of the Beehive ammunition. Beehive
was fired in combat for the first time on 7 November 1966 by
Battery A, 2d Battalion, 320th Field Artillery. A single round
killed nine attacking enemy and stopped the attack. The round was
employed on many occasions with similar success, perhaps the best
known being during the enemy attack on Landing Zone BIRD.
Another effective direct fire technique was "Killer Junior," per­
fected by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Dean, commander of the 1st
Battalion, 8th Field Artillery, of the 25th Infantry Division Artil­
lery. The technique was designed to defend fire bases against
enemy ground attack and used mechanical time-fused projectiles
set to burst approximately 30 feet off the ground at ranges of 200 to
1,000 meters. The name Killer Junior applied to light and medium
artillery (105-mm. and 155-mm.), whereas "Killer Senior" referred
to the same system used with the 8-inch howitzer. This technique
proved more effective in many instances than direct fire with Bee­
hive ammunition because the enemy could avoid Beehive by lying
prone or crawling. Another successful application of the Killer tech­
nique was in clearing snipers from around base areas. The name
Killer came from the radio call sign of the battalion that perfected
the technique. To speed the delivery of fire, the crew of each
weapon used a firing table containing the quadrant, fuze settings,
and charge appropriate for each range at which direct fire targets
could be acquired.
Countermortar (or counterbattery) fires, the second type of ar­
tillery defensive fire, were preplanned, unobserved fires that were

6 , 4 0 0 - M I L CHART. Map on back shows area coverage.


^oVyriVVi'Yff')! i^VWff"''

S Siftiirt

Nit ti scale

Diagram 1. M1O1 105-mm. artillery field position.




Beehive 7
1 Covered High explosive racks and trench
2 Personnel honker
3 Covered rack for prepared admonition
4 Covered rack for improved conventional monitions
5 Direct fire sector with fighting trench
6 Covered rack for chemical ammonition
7 Covered rack for Beehive ammunition
8 Second covered ammonition ready rack

Diagram 2. Ml02 105-mm. emplacement.


wall and cover
Ammunition racks s|,e||s

1 I


c rew
J PSP, gravel or cement I 1
ready room HE I
with I

Section equipment
Powder pit and tool room


Fire barrels


Diagram 3. Semipermanent 105-mm. self-propelled howitzer


Fuze bunker

— Sandbag partition
Powder bunker
Projectile bunker

Projectile bunker

Powder bunker

Section equipment
Powder pit

Bunkers were located according to the most frequently used direction of fire Powder bunkers were divided into sections
deep enough to accommodate two pallets of powder.

Diagram 4. Towed 155-mm. howitzer emplacement.


Powder pit

it ;|l
Sandkags -P
Howitzer crew
quarters mi 1 II Howitzer crew
ari section Sandkags

or canisters
p eojiipneat or canisters





(Protected ky saiikags or lateritefilled canisters)

Tke howitzer parapet was open. Tke annnunitioii racks and crew
quarters were covered witk pierced steel plank and sandkaes.

Diagram 5. Self-propelled 155-mm. howitzer emplacement.


Covered barrels for excess powder increments

Normal living qiarters for personnel were separated from the firing
position when possible. Tbe howitzer pads were constrncted by engineers.

Diagram 6. Heavy (8-inch or 175-mm.) artillery emplacement.

executed in the event the fire base underwent an enemy rocket or

mortar attack, either as part of a ground attack or as a "standoff"
attack using rocket or mortar fire alone. A field artillery forward
observer or liaison officer chose likely positions for enemy weapons
from a map and from information provided by aerial reconnais­
sance. Firing data to the positions were computed and a fire plan
was prepared. The fire plan was retained in the battery fire direc­
tion center, where it could be executed immediately when
requested. This procedure might at first glance appear to depend

ARTILLERY HILL AT PLEIKU. An artillery base camp containing a field

artillery group, three field artillery battalion headquarters, and nine
firing units.

to a great extent on luck, but it proved to be quite effective. An

experienced artilleryman knowing the optimum range of enemy
weapons, the likely routes into the area, and the criteria for good
weapons positions could be very accurate in predicting future loca­
tions of enemy weapons.
Mutually supporting fires, the third type of artillery defensive
fire, were indirect fires provided by one fire base in support of an­
other. Whenever a new base was established, field artillery forward
observers and liaison officers contacted responsible personnel on
other bases within range and made plans to support one another if
attacked. Planning included choosing and prefiring targets close to
the defensive perimeter of each fire base. The firing data were re­
tained in the fire direction centers and used when requested. Im­
mediately available close-in fires were thus assured. Subsequent cor­
rections could be made if necessary.
Time and again the indirect fires from mutually supporting ar­
tillery proved to be a principal factor in successfully countering an

enemy attack on a fire base. Having mutually supporting bases was

considered so important that whenever a battery was required to
occupy a position beyond the range of any friendly artillery, every
effort was made to readjust other artillery positions to bring them
within range. If that was not possible, batteries often split into
three-gun platoons and occupied two separate but mutually sup­
porting positions.
The various designs of individual weapon emplacements con­
structed by batteries on fire bases reflected a great deal of initiative
and individuality. The design normally was standardized within a
battalion and, in some cases, throughout a division or group. What­
ever the design, it provided for all-round protection of weapons and
crews from direct fire, readily available overhead cover for the
crews, and protection of ammunition. Common materials used were
sandbags, ammunition boxes, powder canisters, pierced-steel plank­
ing, heavy timbers, and corrugated steel roofing. Steel culverts
covered with sandbags were used to provide hastily constructed, yet
effective, personnel cover. Standard cyclone fencing placed 20-25
feet in front of positions protected howitzers, which, with their high
silhouettes, were particularly vulnerable to enemy rocket attack.
The loose soil of coastal areas and the saturated soil of the
lowlands during the monsoons made it difficult to prevent the shift­
ing of light and medium howitzers during firing. Logs were used to
brace the M101A1 105-mm. howitzers. Firing platforms on the
Ml02 105-mm. howitzers frequently were staked through pierced-
steel planking or ridged-aluminum planking. The Ml 14A1 155-mm.
howitzer was particularly prone to shifting. A common field expe­
dient to help stabilize this weapon was 55-gallon drums filled with
soil and buried vertically and flush with the surface. Logs were often
dug in horizontally in a circle around the weapon to brace its trails
during firing. One method that proved effective in reducing dis­
placement was devised by the 1st Battalion, 84th Artillery. Old tank
tracks with the ends linked together were buried vertically flush
with the surface and in a circle. The howitzer was positioned in the
center, with its trails against the tracks.
The 6,400-mil environment required that gun sections be thor­
oughly versed in techniques to allow weapons to be shifted rapidly
to a new direction of fire. Two sets of reference points, which nor­
mally consisted of two sets of aiming posts or one set of aiming
posts and an infinity collimator, provided a visible angular refer­
ence in any direction. Azimuth markers or stakes around the gun
positions provided easy reference and facilitated the frequent shift­
ing of trails from mission to mission. In the case of the 155-mm.
towed howitzer, shifting trails was a time-consuming, laborious
AN/MPQ-4 COUNTERMORTAR RADAR, positioned on a large tower for
better area coverage.


task. Through the initial efforts of Lieutenant Nathaniel Foster of

the 8th Battalion, 6th Artillery, 1st Infantry Division, a pedestal
that eliminated the need for lowering the howitzer off its jack be­
fore shifting trails was developed. Modification of Foster's initial
platform led to thefloatjack, which made the weapon more respon­
sive and flexible.
Central to the firing battery was the fire direction center. This
was a small, well-bunkered position. It had the personnel and
equipment necessary to receive fire requests from forward observers
with the supported force and to convert these requests to data that
were usable at the guns. Fire direction centers, too, had to follow
new techniques in order to respond to calls for fire from all direc­
tions. Firing charts had to allow for a 6,400-mil range of fire, and
much experimentation was done in this area to devise the best sys­
tem. Generally, an oversized firing chart mounted on a large table
proved to be the most effective solution.
The fire base proved its worth in Vietnam: it could be quickly
constructed virtually anywhere; it could withstand the most formi­
dable assaults that an unsophisticated enemy could bring against it;
and it permitted the field artillery to provide fire support of the
same high quality as that provided in past wars.

Base Camp Defense

The base camp was an installation occupied by a headquarters
larger than a battalion. Whereas the fire base performed a combat
mission, the base camp was larger and contained controlling head­
quarters for combat activities as well as essential combat service
support activities. A perimeter of bunkers encircled the base
camp, and beyond the bunkers were intricate barriers of barbed
wire reinforced with flares and mines. Headquarters and combat
service support personnel, augmented where required by infantry,
manned the perimeter. Ground forces conducted continuous patrol­
ling around the base camp, usually out as far as the range of enemy
The field artillery also contributed to the defense of a base
camp. Cannons fired harassing and interdiction fires on likely enemy
routes and positions, answered calls for observed fire from patrols,
fired illumination rounds, and provided direct fires against enemy
ground attacks. The number of cannons required for the defense of
base camps varied; a brigade or artillery group base camp might
require only a platoon of artillery, whereas a division base camp
might need several batteries.
In addition to cannons, field artillery targeting devices such as
radars and searchlights, when available, were integrated into the
defense. The AN/MPQ-4 countermortar radar, organic to direct
support artillery battalions, and the AN/TPS-25 ground surveil­
lance radar, organic to division artillery, were used in conjunction
with shorter range infantry antipersonnel radars for locating tar­
gets. Once targets were located, they were engaged by cannons or
other suitable supporting fires. Searchlights provided either visible
or infrared illumination. They were oriented for direction on the
same angular reference as the artillery weapons. If the enemy was
spotted, an azimuth and an estimated distance could be relayed di­
rectly to the battery fire direction center.
The responsibility for defense of a base camp was often assumed
by the senior artilleryman occupying the installation. Phu Loi base
camp, for example, was occupied by the 23d Artillery Group head­
quarters plus other combat support and combat service support ac­
tivities. No infantry unit was permanently assigned, and on two
occasions the group commander was designated as Phu Loi defense
commander. Senior ground commanders at times also delegated re­
sponsibility for the defense of their base camps to their senior artil­
lery commanders, as in the 4th Division, first at Camp Enari and
later at Camp Radcliff. As installation defense commander the
division artillery commander controlled that area around the base
30-INCH XENON SEARCHLIGHT. Battery I, 29th Field Artillery, at Fire
Support Base Horseshoe, February 1970.

camp within a fourteen-kilometer radius. He co-ordinated patrol

and reconnaissance activities in the area, co-ordinated the perimeter
defense effort, and established the installation defense co-ordination
center, in which all efforts concerning reconnaissance, ground de­
fense, reaction to enemy attack, target acquisition, and fire support
were centralized. Sizable portions of base camp defense responsi­
bilities were also delegated to the artillery commanders of the 1st
Cavalry Division and the 1st Infantry Division. The former was
given operational control of a cavalry battalion in Area of Opera­
tions CHIEF, encompassing the division base camp at Phuoc Vinh.
The latter directed maneuver operations around the Big Red One
artillery base camp at Phu Loi.

Riverine Artillery
The terrain of the Mekong Delta was a serious hindrance to
fighting forces in Vietnam. The delta is comprised of rivers and
canals coupled with swamps and rice paddies. Roads and dry
ground are scarce, and hamlets and villages have long since been
built on what little dry ground there is. If artillery shared dry
ground with a hamlet, the firing unsettled the people whose sup­
port the allies were trying so hard to win. Even when field artillery
was positioned on dry ground, it was difficult to employ because the
high water table made the ground soft. Without a firm firing base,
cannons bogged down, were difficult to traverse, and required con­
stant checks for accuracy. All this lessened their responsiveness and
A fighting force in the delta could not rely on ground vehicles
for transportation or supply. Vehicles could seldom move the infan­
try close to the enemy, they were vulnerable to ambush, and the
scarcity of dry ground overly cramped and restricted supply opera­
tions and the activities of control headquarters and supporting field
artillery. Helicopters were used successfully to transport troops and
artillery to the area of operations. The airborne platform was de­
veloped to solve problems of the inadequacy and scarcity of dry
ground. The platform, a 22-foot square, was similar to a low table
with large footpads on four adjustable legs to distribute its weight.
The platform could be lifted by Chinook and placed rapidly in
boggy or inundated areas. A second Chinook brought in a 105-mm.
howitzer M102 and ammunition and placed it on the platform.
(The howitzer and platform could be lifted together by a CH-54
Crane.) The platform provided space for the howitzer, the crew,
and a limited amount of ammunition and permitted traverse of the
howitzer in all directions. If one or more of the legs was mired when


the platform was to be moved, the footpad was disconnected and

left in place to be recovered separately. A principal disadvantage
of the airmobile platform was that the gun crew was overexposed
to enemy fire. It was impossible to construct bunkers or overhead
cover since the nearest ground was under water, though sandbags
positioned around the edge of the platform provided some protec­
tion. Another disadvantage was that ammunition resupply and stor­
age was difficult because of limited space on the platform.
Even more significant than the use of helicopters in the delta
was the formation of a riverine task force, which relied on water­
craft to provide transportation, fire power, and supply. The task
force consisted of the 2d Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division and
the U.S. Navy River Assault Flotilla 1.
Field Artillery support for the new riverine task force was
initially provided from fixed locations, but the support was less
than adequate. Field artillery needed to move and position itself to
best support the ground action. This need was satisfied by the 1st
Battalion, 7th Artillery, in December 1966 when the battalion first
employed the LCM-6 medium-size landing craft as a firing plat­
form for howitzers. The LCM could be moved to a desirable posi­
tion and secured to the riverbank. Internal modification was
required so that the craft could accommodate the M101A1 howitzer,


tion center on left, helicopter pad in center, and living quarters on right.

but even then it was not wide enough to permit the howitzer trails
to be spread fully. As a result, the on-carriage traverse was limited.
Other shortcomings were that the craft did not afford as stable a
firing platform as was desired and that excessive time was required
to fire.
More successful were floating barges. The concept originated
from a conference in the field between Captain John A. Beiler,
commander of Battery B, 3d Battalion, 34th Artillery, and Major
Daniel P. Charlton, the battalion operations officer. Their ideas
prompted a series of experiments to determine the most suitable
method of artillery employment with the riverine force.
The first experiment used a floating AMMI ponton barge bor­
rowed from the Navy and an M101A1 105-mm. howitzer. Although
the AMMI barge served its purpose, it was difficult to move and
had a draft too deep for the delta area. The barge finally used was
constructed of P-l standard Navy pontons (each 7 by 5 feet) fas­
tened together into a single barge that was 90 feet long by 28 feet 4
inches wide. Armor plate was installed around its sides for protec­
tion of the gun crews. Ammunition storage areas were built on
either end and living quarters in the center. This arrangement
RIVERINE BATTERY POSITION. Six M102 howitzers preparing for an op­
eration (fire direction center located in center right barge).

RIVERINE PLATOON MOORED TO CANAL BANK. Living quarters are located

in center, ammunition storage on each end.

provided two areas, one on each side of the living quarters, that
could be used to position 105-mm. howitzers. Initially the M101A1
howitzer was used but, as the newer Ml02 weapon became available
in Vietnam, it replaced the older howitzer. A mount for the Ml02
was made by welding the baseplate of the howitzer to a plate
welded to the barge deck. This mount permitted the howitzer to be
traversed rapidly a full 6,400 mils.
Three barges and five LCM-8's constituted an average floating
riverine battery. Three LCM's were used as push boats, one as the
fire direction center and command post and one as the ammunition
resupply vessel. Batteries could move along the rivers and canals
throughout the delta region; they frequently moved with the as­
sault force to a point just short of the objective area. All the weap­
ons had a direct fire capability, a definite asset in the event of an
ambush. Then the howitzers often responded with Beehive rounds,
which usually broke up the ambush in short order.
When a location for the battery was selected, the barges were
pushed into position along the riverbank. The preferable position
was one where the riverbank was clear of heavy vegetation. This
facilitated helicopter resupply, which could then be accomplished
on the bank as close as possible to the weapons. Clear banks also


Beehive rounds at left of trails.

provided better security for the battery. The barges normally were
placed next to the riverbank opposite the primary target area so
that the howitzers would fire away from the shoreline in support of
the infantry. This served two purposes: weapons could be fired at
the lowest angle possible to clear obstructions on the far bank, and
the helipad was not in the likely direction of fire.
The barge was stabilized with grappling hooks, winches, and
standoff supports on the bank side of the barge. Mooring lines were
secured around the winches and reeled in or out to accommodate
tide changes so that the barges would not be caught on either the
bank or mudflats at low tide. Equipment to provide directional
reference for the weapons—including aiming circle, collimator, and
aiming posts—was emplaced on the banks. Accuracy offiresproved
to be comparable to that of ground-mounted howitzers.
Without these new developments in riverine artillery, U.S. ma­
neuver force activities in the delta area would have been seriously
curtailed or often would have had to take place out of range of
friendly field artillery. Instead, the field artillery was able to pro­
vide support when and where it was needed.

The Buildup (1965-1967)

The Buildup Begins and Early Actions Around Saigon

At 0530 on 5 May 1965, the first of 150 sorties of C-130 aircraft
loaded with men and equipment of the 173d Airborne Brigade and
its support elements landed at Bien Hoa Air Base in Saigon.
Battalion-size elements of the U.S. Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, had
been operating around Da Nang in the northern portion of South
Vietnam since March, but the arrival of the 173d, consisting of two
airborne infantry battalions, marked the first commitment of a
U.S. Army ground combat unit in Vietnam. The brigade, under
the command of Brigadier General Ellis W. Williamson, formed a
defensive perimeter around the air base. In direct support of the
brigade was the 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery (Airborne), a two
firing-battery 105-mm. battalion commanded by Lieutenant Colo­
nel Lee E. Surut.
Counterinsurgency operations dictated new tactics and tech­
niques, and, as they affected maneuver units, so they affected their
supporting artillery. Although the brigade had undergone rigorous
training in Okinawa before its departure for Vietnam, the "first
unit in" could not be totally prepared. Nevertheless, the airborne
troopers of the 173d performed admirably. No sooner had the
brigade unloaded its gear than it began to conduct operations
around Bien Hoa, primarily search and destroy operations and
patrol actions. The men of the 319th had a "jump" of two months
on fellow artillerymen, which enabled them to compile an im­
pressive list of firsts. The first field artillery round fired by a U.S.
Army unit in the Republic of Vietnam came from the base piece of
Battery C, 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery, during a registration mis­
sion. With that round, the U.S. field artillery role in the Vietnam
war began.
On 31 May 1965 the 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery, as part of
Task Force SURUT, participated in the largest air-assault conducted
in Vietnam to that date. The task force, consisting of the 319th
reinforced by a cavalry troop, an engineer platoon, and a composite
platoon made up of volunteers from the support battalion, secured
a landing zone and guided in CH-37 Mohave helicopters carrying


the howitzers. Up to this point in the war, the Mohaves had been
doing yeoman duty as all-purpose aircraft. So smoothly and effi­
ciently did this initial move go that three hours later these same
howitzers mounted preparation fires on another landing zone for
Task Force DEXTER, a reinforced infantry element of the 173d
Brigade. This was the first such operation ever conducted in actual
combat by a U.S. Army unit—one that had been in Vietnam less
than thirty days.
The 173d soon had an opportunity to participate as the reserve
force in an offensive operation. In June a Viet Cong regiment
launched an attack on Dong Xoai, a district town ninety miles
north of Saigon. With the press corps closely following the events,
the 173d moved to a forward airfield in case relief forces were
needed. Although South Vietnamese troops ultimately relieved
Dong Xoai, the Redlegs of the 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery, be­
came the first U.S. Army unit in Vietnam to engage in an offensive
operation by providing fire support for the South Vietnamese
troops relieving Dong Xoai.

After the Dong Xoai support operations, the 3d Battalion re­

turned to Bien Hoa to ready for a history-making operation that
commenced on Sunday, 27 June. Fifty kilometers north of Bien Hoa
lies the southern edge of a huge tangle of double-canopy forest and
thick undergrowth. Called War Zone D, it had long been a guer­
rilla haven, unpenetrated even by the French in their many years
of fighting. In a massive, businesslike operation, five maneuver
battalions penetrated deep into the area. The 3d Battalion (Air­
borne), 319th Artillery, provided co-ordinated fire support for the
1st and 2d Battalions (Airborne), 503d Infantry, of the 173d Air­
borne Brigade and the 3d and 4th Battalions of the South Vietnam­
ese Army 2d Airborne Brigade. The Royal Australian Regiment
joined the operation after the second day. The size of the assaulting
force determined the significance of the operation for the artillery.
It necessitated the close co-ordination of large volumes of artillery
fires augmented by close air support and armed helicopters.
Before the operation began, the brigade commander directed
that artillerymen "exercise the complete system." Exercise it they
did. One hundred forty-four aircraft providing support for the
operation assisted in the displacement of five infantry battalions, a
field artillery battalion, a support battalion, and a composite bat­
talion of cavalry, armor, and engineers. Throughout the entire
operation, no serious incidents or major breakdowns in the system
occurred. The artillery provided ten forward observers (including
the battalion property book officer), three liaison officers (includ­
ing the battalion communications officer), and two aerial observers
in addition to those forward observers and liaison officers normally
provided. Three communication nets were used and all fires were
cleared through the brigade fire support co-ordination center. The
319th fired nearly 5,000 rounds of 105-mm. ammunition during the
four-day period while maintaining contact and effecting co-ordina­
tion with the supporting Vietnamese and Australian artillery units.
Known only as OPORD 17-65, the designation of the original
operation order, this venture into War Zone D yielded satisfying
results. By conservative estimates, the enemy suffered 75 casualties
and lost several trucks and nearly 250 tons of food and supplies. In
an honest appraisal of the field artillery role shortly after the con­
clusion of the operation, Colonel Surut admitted having discovered
some "bugs" in the fire support system:
Fire support coordination initially slowed some missions, but by
D + 2 this bottleneck was overcome. Safety checks slowed the firing some­
what; however the checks are necessary for close support, particularly
with three major maneuver elements abreast.

General Williamson, the brigade commander, in a letter to the

commandant of the Field Artillery School, discussed the initial
operations of the 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery:
The artillery over here is doing a fabulous job. My Artillery Bat­
talion Commander is having experiences that far exceed what most
others have had. . . I would suggest that the Artillery make every ef­
fort to get the most promising young officers out here for some very
worthwhile experiences.
The 173d Airborne Brigade again tested its fire support system
in War Zone D on 6 July. Along with a battalion of the Royal
Australian Regiment and units of the 43d Regiment of the Army
of the Republic of Vietnam, the brigade conducted four multiple
air assaults supported by helicopter sorties just north of the Dong
Nai River. The operation resulted in 56 enemy killed, 28 captured,
100 tons of rice seized, and several tons of documents destroyed.
For the field artillerymen, this second venture into War Zone D
provided an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the previous
operation. Clearance and safety checks now were routine and the
liaison and co-ordination efforts functioned smoothly. General
Williamson, in complimenting the co-ordination efforts of all in­
volved, said:
. . . as I looked at it from above, it was a sight to see. We were
withdrawing from the center Landing Zone while some friendly troops
were still in the western Landing Zone. We had a helicopter strike
going in a circle around the center Landing Zone. The machinegun and
rocket firing helicopters kept making their circle smaller and smaller as
we withdrew our landing zone security. Just to the west side we had
another helicopter strike running north to south. We also had some­
thing else that was just a little hairy but it worked without any question.
The artillery was firing high angle fire to screen the north side of the
landing zone. The personnel lift helicopters were coming from the east,
going under the artillery fire, sitting down on the LZ to pick up troops
and leaving by way of the southwest. In addition to that, we had an
airstrike going to the northeast. All of these activities were going on at
the same time. We could not have done that a few weeks ago. The only
reason we can do it now is that (we know) where our troops are and the
fire support coordination center can coordinate fire and other activities.
The 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery, maintained continuous
"feedback" to the U.S. Army Artillery and Missile School (later
the Field Artillery School) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Correspondence
included letters, memorandums, and copies of debriefings and
after-action reports which contained numerous insights on the em­
ployment of artillery. At the school the correspondence was
thoroughly studied and discussed with a view toward including any
new and valuable information in classroom instruction. The fol­


which carried forty-eight 2.75-inch folding fin aerial rockets.

lowing are only a few of the important insights and tips received
from the 3d Battalion:
1. Dense foliage in Vietnam made it particularly difficult to
identify friendly troop dispositions and enemy targets to
close air support aircraft. One system adopted to help cor­
rect this shortcoming was to employ white phosphorous
projectiles as marking rounds.
2. Commanders must make every effort to preclude the check
firing of one fire support system to accommodate another.
General Williamson's description of actions in War Zone D
was evidence that the 173d Airborne Brigade was getting
good results with the continuous and concurrent employ­
ment of various fire support systems.
3. Responsive shelling report (SHELREP) personnel were
necessary to establish an effective countermortar and
counterbattery program. To this end, correspondence from
the 173d Airborne Brigade recommended the use of artil­
lery survey personnel in crater and shelling report teams.
4. Whenever possible clearances of large zones should be ob­
tained in advance of an operation. This foresight in opera­

tional planning would result in more responsive on-call

supporting fires.

New Arrivals
The 3d Battalion (Airborne), 319th Artillery, relinquished its
position as the only U.S. Army artillery unit in Vietnam on 16 July
1965 with the arrival of the 2d Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (the
"Big Red One"), and its supporting field artillery, the 1st Battal­
ion, 7th Artillery. Less than two weeks later the 1st Brigade, 101st
Airborne Division, arrived by ship at Cam Ranh Bay with the 2d
Battalion (Airborne), 320th Artillery. In September the 1st Cav­
alry Division (Airmobile) arrived and brought with it the first
U.S. Army division artillery to arrive in Vietnam.
The organization of the 1st Cavalry Division Artillery was typi­
cal of other division artilleries that followed. The division artillery
consisted of three light 105-mm. howitzer battalions with three
batteries of six guns each and an aerial rocket artillery battalion
with thirty-nine aircraft. Most division artilleries contained three
105-mm. battalions but also included a fourth battalion of three
155-mm. howitzer batteries and one 8-inch howitzer battery.
Whether aerial rocket artillery or heavy cannon artillery, the
fourth battalion augmented and extended the range of the three
105-mm. battalions, each of which was in direct support of a brigade
of the division.
Before the end of 1965, the remainder of the 1st Division
Artillery arrived to provide support for the Big Red One in III
Corps. Its organization was typical of most of the division artilleries
that would arrive later, its fire power coming from three 105-mm.
battalions and a composite 155-mm. and 8-inch battalion. The
initial field artillery buildup also included the first few separate
battalions that provided the general support and reinforcing fires
needed to complement the divisional artillery.
As the number of U.S. troops committed to Vietnam grew,
organizational changes to facilitate command and control were re­
quired. U.S. Army Support Command, Vietnam, was redesignated
U.S. Army, Vietnam (USARV). Task Force ALPHA was activated
on 1 August 1965 and based at Nha Trang with control over all
U.S. units in the II and III Corps areas. Ill Marine Amphibious
Force (III MAF) functioned as controlling headquarters for U.S.
units in the I Corps area. In early 1966 Task Force ALPHA was
redesignated I Field Force, Vietnam (IFFV), with responsibility for
II Corps area. II Field Force, Vietnam (IIFFV), was activated.
II Field Force was then assigned responsibility for III Corps area.

Coinciding with the activation of the II Field Force head­

quarters was the creation of controlling artillery headquarters. On
30 November 1965, XXX Corps Artillery arrived at Nha Trang
and assumed control of U.S. and allied artillery units under Task
Force ALPHA. On 15 March 1966, XXX Corps Artillery was re­
designated I Field Force Artillery. To the south, II Field Force
Artillery, organized in January, arrived in Vietnam in March 1966.
The force artilleries functioned as controlling headquarters for all
nondivisional artillery. Commanded by a brigadier general, the
field force artillery was similar to a corps artillery, long a part of
the U.S. Army organization. The force artillery was made up of all
separate artillery battalions, batteries, and detachments in addition
to the artillery groups under its control. The artillery group made
its debut in the war with the arrival of the 23d Artillery Group in
November of 1965. The group functioned as the controlling head­
quarters for its assigned battalions and normally had a mission of
general support of the field force and reinforcing the fires of specific
artillery units within the field force area of responsibility. Although
many smaller organizational changes occurred in the course of the
war, these first few significant steps laid the basic framework for
the artillery command structure that by 1969 would support the
operations of over a half million U.S. troops.

The Pleiku (la Drang) Campaign

In the early days of the buildup, units could not be permitted
time for detailed planning and rehearsing. The North Vietnamese
Army (NVA) had increased its forces significantly and had to be
engaged at once. The situation was particularly critical in II Corps
Tactical Zone, where at least three regiments of North Vietnamese
regulars and one Viet Cong main force battalion were threatening
to cut the country in half. Part of their mission was to meet and
humiliate the newly arrived 1st Cavalry Division.
The 1st Cavalry Division did not arrive in Vietnam until Sep­
tember 1965, some of its units in early October. Yet on 22 October
1965 the commanding general of the division received the following
Commencing first light 23 Oct 65, 1st Air Cav. Deploys one BN TF
(Minimum 1 Inf Bn and 1 Arty Btry) to Pleiku with mission to be
prepared to assist in defense of Key US/GVN installations. Vic Pleiku
or reinforce II Corps Operations to relieve Plei Me CIDG Camp.
The Pleiku campaign, sometimes called the battle of the la
Drang Valley, started with only a small force but eventually in­
volved the entire division; Before the battle was over, the division


accomplished several significant feats. (Map 4) Among these was

the first air deployment and supply of tube artillery in an area of
extremely rugged terrain and no roads. The operation proved that
infantry units could always have tube artillery, as well as aerial
rocket artillery, in support of their ground operations regardless
of the terrain. The Pleiku campaign saw the first night employ­
ment of aerial rocket artillery in extremely close support of ground
troops and in conjunction with tube artillery and tactical air. Also,
for the first time large American units met and defeated battalion­

and regiment-size North Vietnamese Army units under control of

divisional headquarters. This was also the first real combat test of
the airmobility concept.
The campaign opened on the morning of 23 October. Task
Force INGRAM, composed mainly of the 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry,
and Battery B, 2d Battalion, 17th Artillery, moved by air from
An Khe to Camp Holloway at Pleiku to reinforce the area. The
commanding general of the 1st Air Cavalry Division received per­
mission to move his entire 1st Brigade to Camp Holloway to assist
in the security mission.
While the 1st Brigade was repositioning its forces, a South Viet­
namese task force was moving from Pleiku to the relief of the
Plei Me civilian irregular defense group camp, which had been
attacked by a North Vietnamese regiment. Unfortunately, the re­
lief column was engaged and halted by two or three enemy com­
panies. The South Vietnamese commander absolutely refused to
move unless he was provided U.S. artillery support. In an effort to
get the relief column moving, the artillery battalion commander
placed an artillery liaison team with the task force and provided
the support of two artillery batteries. Still, the attempt to get the
column moving was initially unsuccessful because the Vietnamese
commander then refused to move until he had been resupplied
from Pleiku. It was several days before the relief column started
to move, and then only after the U.S. artillery forward observer
mounted the lead vehicle of the convoy and literally walked artil­
lery fires down the road in advance of the moving column. With
this support, the column received only sporadic small-arms fire and
this was silenced by attack helicopters and Air Force tactical air
strikes. The South Vietnamese column finally arrived at the Plei
Me camp at dusk on 25 October.
The reluctance of the Vietnamese commander to move on 23
October was probably a blessing in disguise, because it allowed the
cavalry to reposition two batteries of the 2d Battalion, 19th Artil­
lery, better to support the future battle. This proved a significant
advantage later. The delay also gave the brigade time to learn
more about the enemy disposition in the area.
On the morning of 26 October, the Vietnamese task force con­
ducted a sweep around the Plei Me camp. Five minutes after noon
the task force encountered mortar, small-arms, and recoilless rifle
fire. The force immediately took casualties and faltered. The two
batteries of the 2d Battalion, 19th Artillery, responded at once with
supporting fires, which enabled the task force to regroup, withstand
the attack, and take the offensive. The North Vietnamese forces
suffered 148 killed and 5 captured in this action. The two artillery

units were credited with drawing first blood for the 1st Cavalry
Division. Had they not been in position, what became the first
friendly victory could well have been a defeat.
The division started hunting for the enemy force with all avail­
able means. It planned to support any engagement by rapid air
movement of artillery batteries and by tactical air strikes. The
airmobility concept had envisioned the movement and supply of
maneuver and support forces by helicopter, and the 1st Cavalry
Division had been organized accordingly with light equipment and
aircraft. From 27 October until the morning of 1 November, the
enemy proved to be elusive. He attempted to retreat toward sanctu­
ary areas and avoided contact whenever possible. A few skirmishes
occurred, but they were mainly between small forces.
On the morning of 1 November, an air cavalry troop discovered
a small enemy force guarding a regimental aid station. Before the
action terminated, an enemy battalion was engaged by the air
cavalry troop. The air cavalry habitually operated beyond artillery
range; its mission was to find the enemy and fix him in position,
when possible, until the division ground forces and supporting ar­
tillery could be brought to the scene. In this case all friendly ar­
tillery was out of range, but even so the enemy lost the effectiveness
of most of one battalion before the battle was over. The enemy
withdrew pursued by division scout and aerial rocket artillery air­
craft as well as Air Force tactical air strikes.
On 2 and 3 November, light action continued and ambush
positions were established throughout the area. One of the am­
bushes caught an enemy platoon-size force by surprise and totally
destroyed it. The ambush patrol then pulled back into the patrol
base area and established a tight defensive perimeter. At midnight
of the 3d, the patrol base was attacked by an enemy battalion-size
force. It was evident that reinforcements were needed at once. The
patrol base, which had been established by Troop B, 1st Squadron,
9th Cavalry, had a landing zone within the perimeter sufficient to
accommodate five helicopters. Into this landing zone came Com­
pany A, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, in platoon-size lifts, making this
the first time that a perimeter under fire had been relieved by a
heliborne force. Although cannon artillery was not within range of
the patrol base initially, aerial rocket artillery was available and
for the first time fired at night in very close support—as near as 50
meters to friendly positions. Aerial rocket artillery continued to
support the defense of the patrol base until the morning of 4
November, when tube artillery was moved to a supporting position.
The enemy broke contact shortly after artillery rounds began to

fall on their positions. Although a large number of the enemy dead

was carried away by the retreating forces, the body count was 112,
with an estimated 92 others killed in action. Intelligence discovered
that this enemy force was a North Vietnamese Army unit that had
just arrived in the country. The cavalry division had insured that
they received a warm welcome.
The artillery also proved instrumental in defeating an enemy
force engaged by elements of Company B, 2d Battalion, 12th Cav­
alry. While on a sweep operation, Company B came upon an enemy
element guarding a cache of weapons and ammunition. The artil­
lery fire caused the enemy to disengage and abandon the cache. He
lost 120,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition; 126 rounds of mor­
tar ammunition, recoilless rifle ammunition, and hand grenades;
and 26 weapons, including mortars and recoilless rifles.
Again, on 6 November, aerial rocket artillery fire was decisive
in battle. Company B, 2d Battalion, 8th Cavalry, became engaged
with a battalion of the 33d North Vietnamese Army Regiment.
The enemy battalion had attempted to encircle Company B, but
the company's fire power plus artillery and air strikes held off
the enemy threat. Company C was able to reinforce Company B
before dark. After dark, when the most intense part of the fire-
fight was over, the enemy withdrew his main force and left snipers
behind to harass the perimeter of the two companies. He was
soundly defeated. His last cohesive fighting unit east of the la Drang
River had sustained an estimated 460 killed and wounded. Many
of these casualties must be attributed to the fires of both tube and
aerial rocket artillery.
The enemy wanted no further engagements until he could
regroup his forces after the mauling the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cav­
alry Division had given him. Sufficient intelligence had been gath­
ered to determine that the division was fighting three separate
North Vietnamese regiments—the 66th, which had just arrived in
the country; the 32d, which had ambushed the South Vietnamese
task force on its way to Plei Me; and the 33d, which had attacked
Plei Me. These regiments formed a full North Vietnamese Army
division, which was being used offensively for the first time in
South Vietnam.
Of the three North Vietnamese Army regiments, the 33d had
been particularly hard hit. When the unit attacked Plei Me, its
strength was 2,190 men. In actions against the 1st Brigade, the
regiment had lost 890 men killed, more than 100 missing, and still
more suffering incapacitating wounds. Materiel losses had also been
heavy. The regiment lost 13 of its 18 antiaircraft guns as well as

11 mortar tubes and most of its recoilless rifles. In addition, there

had been crippling losses of ammunition, food, and medical sup­
The North Vietnamese division headquarters next planned an
attack for the morning of 16 November against the original target
—the Plei Me civilian irregular defense group camp. With this
objective in mind, the three enemy regiments regrouped and
headed eastward toward Plei Me.
During the lull in battle, the 3d ("Gary Owen") Brigade re­
lieved the now battle-tested 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division
on the battlefield. The 1st Brigade returned to Camp Radcliff at
An Khe for a well-deserved rest. No significant action occurred
until 12 November, when the enemy, seemingly just to let the 3d
Brigade know that he was still around, staged a violent battalion-
size attack against the 3d Brigade base at Landing Zone STADIUM.
Aerial rocket artillery aircraft positioned at STADIUM responded
immediately. All seven aircraft were airborne within five minutes
after the attack started, and their combined fires stopped the mor­
tar barrage.
As the 3d Brigade began search and destroy missions to the east
of Plei Me, it also set the stage for a sudden thrust to the west by
pre-positioning artillery at Landing Zone FALCON, twelve kilome­
ters to the west of Plei Me. This artillery move took place on 13
November. The field was now prepared for what was to be the
major battle of the campaign, Landing Zone X-RAY.
The 3d Brigade waited until the North Vietnamese assault
elements were moving toward Plei Me. Then, at noon on 14 No­
vember, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, landed at the foot of the
Chu Pong Massif, at X-RAY. The enemy was totally surprised. In­
stead of launching a divisional attack on Plei Me and possibly
gaining the tactical initiative, the North Vietnamese Army division
was now required to defend its own base area in the Chu Pong
Mountains and the la Drang Valley, long a sanctuary for Viet Cong
and North Vietnamese forces. Such so-called secret bases provided
the insurgents with a secure area in which to store supplies, con­
duct training, carry out administrative functions, manufacture and
repair arms and equipment, and provide an operating base for
combat units. Not since the French occupation had Vietnamese
government units penetrated the Chu Pong Massif; it was from
this sanctuary and supply base in the la Drang Valley that the
Field Front Headquarters and the 32d and 33d Regiments had
moved to Plei Me on 19 October.
Reacting swiftly to the cavalry landings, the enemy Field Front

ordered the 66th Regiment to attack the landing zone. Strong

elements of the regiment were established on the ridge line over­
looking the landing zone to provide a base of fire for the attack.
The 9th and 7th Battalions of the 66th and a composite battalion
of the 33d (the combined forces of what remained of the 2d and
3d Battalions) provided the initial assault forces.
When the troops of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, landed at
X-RAY, they expected to engage enemy forces, but they did not
expect to face an entire North Vietnamese Army regiment before
the day was over. The enemy attacked with great ferocity against
all elements of the 7th Cavalry. At least two cavalry platoons were
immediately cut off and completely surrounded. The only thing
that saved the platoons was the combined fire of the aerial rocket
artillery unit and the two batteries of artillery at Landing Zone
FALCON. The tube artillery support was frequently called to within
less than 100 meters of the friendly positions. An additional com­
pany from a sister battalion of the 7th Calvary was helilifted into
X-RAY and filled a vacant and vulnerable position on the perimeter.
Throughout the night, the North Vietnamese Army forces at­
tempted to crack the perimeter of one of the isolated platoons but
intensive artillery protective fires that ringed the position broke up
every attack. The main perimeter was also subjected to repeated
probes, and these too were repulsed. Batteries A and C, 1st Battal­
ion, 21st Artillery, located at FALCON, fired over 4,000 rounds of
high-explosive ammunition during the night in close support of
X-RAY. The probing attacks continued into early morning. At
first light, a North Vietnamese Army force of over two companies
once again attempted to penetrate the perimeter. Despite intensive
air strikes and cannon and aerial rocket artillery fires, the enemy
closed to hand-to-hand combat range, attacking from all directions.
Artillery fire was brought to within 50 meters of the hard-pressed
perimeter. This devastating curtain of steel finally broke the back
of the attack. By mid-morning the fight had been reduced to the
point that reinforcements could again be helilifted into X-RAY and
the wounded air evacuated.
To provide additional artillery support, Landing Zone COLUM­
BUS was established 4i/£ kilometers to the northeast of X-RAY. This
landing zone was midway between X-RAY and FALCON, where
Batteries A and C of the 1st Battalion, 21st Artillery, were located.
Battery B of the 1st Battalion, 21st Artillery, and Battery C of the
2d Battalion, 17th Artillery, were now moved into COLUMBUS.
The enemy broke contact and filtered back into the mountains
after suffering tremendous losses. He was pursued with heavy fire

power: cannon artillery continually pounded the area; Air Force

tactical air provided continuous support with a fighter bomber on a
target run on an average of once every fifteen minutes; but the
most devastating support was provided by B-52 bombers which
struck without warning six kilometers west of X-RAY. Though the
bombers had been employed initially in Vietnam some six months
earlier, this was their first use in direct support of U.S. troops on a
tactical operation. For the next five days, the big bombers system­
atically bombed large areas of the Chu Pong Massif.
Early on the morning of the 16th, the enemy attempted again
to overrun X-RAY and again there was a bloodbath. The defenses
were just too tough to penetrate. The enemy lost 834 soldiers by
actual body count and an estimated 1,200 more.
On 17 November, X-RAY was evacuated in preparation for a
B-52 strike (referred to as an Arc Light) that was to be virtually on
top of the landing zone. The 2d Battalion, 7th Cavalry, was moving
overland from X-RAY toward a clearing to the northeast, which was
to be used as a landing zone designated ALBANY. About 300 meters
short of the objective, the battalion became involved in an intense
battle with the 8th Battalion, 66th Regiment, of the North Viet­
namese Army.
As all too often happens in a meeting engagement, the exact
locations of friendly and enemy positions were uncertain. Although
artillery aerial observers were overhead and two batteries of
105-mm. and one battery of 155-mm. howitzers were well within
range, none could fire initially. It was solely an infantryman's
battle for several hours. By midafternoon heavy supporting fires
began falling among North Vietnamese Army elements. The first
strikes were by aerial rocket artillery, followed by a tactical air
napalm run on an enemy company that was forming for an attack.
The attack never started.
Reinforcements were quickly brought into ALBANY, and the
perimeter was consolidated before dark. Actually, two separate
perimeters were established—one by the 2d Battalion, 7th Cavalry,
and one by two companies of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, which
had moved toward ALBANY as reinforcements. The hard-hit 2d
Battalion, 7th Cavalry, was able to expand the perimeter and re­
cover friendly casualties from the battle area. This freedom of
movement was afforded by the continuous artillery fire from CO­
LUMBUS and FALCON and the illumination provided by Air Force
flare ships.
The punishment taken by both friendly and enemy units was
severe during the short battle at ALBANY. Over 270 troopers were

casualties. The enemy lost 403 soldiers by body count and an

estimated 100 others killed. No estimate of wounded was made.
The next morning, the battle area around ALBANY was rela­
tively quiet. The enemy had moved on toward his new objective—
the artillery units at COLUMBUS. At 1735 on 18 November, the last
enemy offensive of the Pleiku campaign began. The remnants of
two enemy regiments attacked COLUMBUS with heavy mortars and
automatic weapons. Because the artillery based at FALCON was
being moved to another location, tactical air strikes and aerial
rocket artillery were used along with direct fire from the artillery
weapons within COLUMBUS to repulse the enemy attack. After three
hours the enemy attack lost momentum and subsided into sporadic
small-arms fire and then quiet. The battle of the la Drang Valley
was, for all practical purposes, over.
The 2d Brigade now entered the battle area and relieved the
3d Brigade. The new brigade continued to search for the enemy.
Contacts were made with scattered North Vietnamese Army ele­
ments of squad or platoon size, and then only after they had been
flushed out and chased by heliborne cavalry or foot patrols.
During the Pleiku campaign, the enemy lost over 1,500 con­
firmed killed and an estimated 2,000 more. His losses were so
extensive that an entire North Vietnamese Army division was made
ineffective. His casualties were produced by all types of weapons,
ranging from the B-52 bomber to the individual rifle. But a very
large proportion of those casualties must be attributed to the artil­
lery of the cavalry division. The enemy was driven back time and
again, primarily by the intensity of artillery fire power. The divi­
sion fired 40,464 artillery rounds and rockets during the campaign.
Of the total casualties, 562 enemy killed and an additional 1,863
estimated killed and wounded were officially credited to the artil­
Although the Pleiku campaign was the first time an entire U.S.
division was committed in battle in Vietnam, the division had been
committed piecemeal, one brigade at a time. Piecemeal commit­
ment in this case had certain benefits. As one brigade was com­
mitted, the relieved brigade along with its supporting forces,
including the direct support artillery battalion, was withdrawn to a
rest area and allowed to refit and to consider what had taken place
in the battle.
The artillerymen had learned much from this campaign. First,
the concept of displacing and supplying artillery by air was proved
valid, particularly in support of an airmobile force. During the
campaign, artillery units of the cavalry division artillery had made

a total of 79 tactical moves—67 of them by air. Continuous air

movement by maneuver and support forces unsettled the enemy.
Properly executed airmobile operations could keep constant pres­
sure on him, wearing him down and destroying his will to resist.
Second, aerial rocket artillery was shown to be extremely respon­
sive and effective in augmenting cannon fires. Ground forces
learned that aerial rocket artillery was reliable and extremely ac­
curate, characteristics that were particularly important in close
support missions. By controlling helicopter fires through artillery
fire support channels, as was done with aerial rocket artillery,
cannon and helicopter fires could be closely co-ordinated by a single
individual, thus insuring that both were complementary. Third,
artillerymen learned of the necessity of having artillery positions
that were mutually supporting. Though Landing Zone COLUMBUS
had stood off an enemy attack without mutually supporting ar­
tillery, its defenders had required air support, which in poor
weather might not have been available. Fourth, because of the
rugged terrain and dense foliage, target acquisition was a definite
problem. Forward observers were still the best means of target
acquisition because they were always with maneuver companies. To
augment the forward observers, aerial observers were added when­
ever possible and were particularly effective in support of overland
ground movements. Fifth, it was shown that the 105-mm. howitzer
was a particularly good weapon for reconnaissance by fire. As the
unit moved, the artillery forward observer would adjust artillery
rounds in advance of the unit. This provided two benefits: the
artillery could disrupt any activity or ambush site the enemy might
have, and the location of the last round fired was a good indicator of
the unit's location. This second advantage would allow for rapid
delivery of artillery in the event the enemy ambushed the ground

The Buildup and Major Combat Operations During 1966

During 1966 three divisions—the 4th, 9th, and 25th—came to

Vietnam. Two separate brigades—the 196th and 199th Light In­
fantry Brigades—and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment also
arrived. The organization of supporting artillery varied somewhat.
The divisional artillery of the three infantry divisions consisted of
three 105-mm. howitzer battalions and one composite battalion of
8-inch and 155-mm. weapons. The separate, or nondivisional, bri­
gades were organized for independent operations. For that reason,
they each had an organic 105-mm. howitzer battalion. The armored

Eight-inch howitzer ready to fire (note gunner's

quadrant held by man on left).

cavalry regiment, roughly equivalent to a brigade, had no artillery

battalion. Instead, each of its three subordinate squadrons had an
organic 155-mm. self-propelled howitzer battery, which together
equalled an artillery battalion. The absence of an artillery battalion
headquarters, however, precluded the co-ordination of all fires.
As 1966 began, artillery in the Republic of Vietnam consisted
of one 105-mm. battalion in direct support of each maneuver bri­
gade, plus two additional 105-mm. battalions, one 155-mm. battal­
ion, one 155-mm. and 8-inch battalion, one aerial rocket artillery
battalion, four 8-inch and 175-mm. battalions, and two artillery
group headquarters. Before the end of 1966, the amount of artil­
lery in Vietnam was to increase over 100 percent. There would be
four group headquarters, six 8-inch and 175-mm. battalions, six
155-mm. or 155-mm. and 8-inch battalions, twenty-four 105-mm.
battalions, and the one aerial rocket artillery battalion. There
would also be two artillery 40-mm. "Duster" battalions that had
been reactivated from Reserve and National Guard assets.

175-MM. GUN. Battery C, 1st Battalion, 83d Field Artillery, at Fire Sup­
port Base Bastogne.

The very number of the operations during 1966 was particu­

larly important for those concerned with artillery employment.
Operation MASHER/ WHITE WING, conducted by the 1st Air Cavalry
Division in early 1966, was the first large-scale operation to cross
corps boundaries, and it involved a tie-in with U.S. Marine Corps
forces as well as allies of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and
the Republic of Korea. The effect of the operation on the enemy
was devastating; it was the largest of the nineteen major operations
conducted during 1966 and resulted in 2,389 enemy casualties.
The operation took place mainly in Binh Dinh Province, largely
controlled by the enemy and considered a very "hot" area. Binh
Dinh is bounded by the South China Sea on the east, by foothills on
its northern boundary with Quang Nga Province, and by large hill
masses on the west and south. In the eastern part of the province,
the terrain is mostly flat coastal plains; to the west, the terrain be­
comes rugged but is interspersed with flat plateaus. Reliable in­






telligence gathered over a period of months pointed to the presence

of a large enemy force in the north of the province. Believed to be
operating there were the 18th and 210th North Vietnam Army
Regiments, the 2d Viet Cong Main Force Regiment, and an un­
identified regiment.
The division plan for the operation covered four phases: Op­
WHITE WING (BLACK HORSE). (Map 5) Phase I, Operation
MASHER, began with a deception operation south of Bong Son to
increase the security of Highway 1 and to lead the enemy to believe
efforts would be directed southward. The 3d Brigade, the Gary
Owen Brigade, conducted the initial assault. The artillery for this
diversionary assault was task organized to allow for adequate fire
support in the event heavy contact was made.
The organic 105-mm. battalions were assigned their normal
missions of direct support and the aerial rocket artillery battalion
was assigned its normal mission of general support. In addition, the
division had field artillery support available from higher head­
quarters. One 8-inch and 175-mm. battery was given the mission of
general support to the division; one 105-mm. battalion, that of
reinforcing the South Vietnamese Airborne Brigade Artillery; and
one searchlight battery, that of general support.
To weight the attack further, elements of direct support units
that were not heavily committed in the opening phase of the
operation were attached to more heavily committed units. Some
units were also given on-order missions, which would facilitate
planning for projected future operations. Additional fire power
outside the division organic and attached resources was also made
available for the operation. Tactical air support, both preplanned
and immediate, was available for the entire operation. Naval
gunfire support was available on call except for the period 10
February-1 March. The fires of a 105-mm. battalion of the 22d
South Vietnamese Division Artillery and a 155-mm. battery of II
Corps were also available.
The initial assault into the area south of Bong Son met little
opposition, and on 28 January, in conjunction with the Vietnamese
Airborne Brigade, air assault and overland attacks were launched
north of Bong Son. Two enemy battalions were found, fixed, and
destroyed during the move north. Prisoner interrogation revealed
that the enemy had moved out of the coastal plains and into the
adjoining highlands to the north and west.
In response to this intelligence, the division launched Phase II
of the operation, WHITE WING. Originally scheduled for 4 Febru­
ary, the initial assaults were delayed for 48 hours because of bad

weather. On 6 February, with a battalion of Marines holding block­

ing positions to the north, the 2d Brigade, 1st Air Cavalry Division,
launched a co-ordinated five-battalion attack from both sides of the
An Lao Valley and swept south toward the 22d Division.
As the 2d Brigade moved south, the 3d Brigade launched Phase
III, a series of attacks into the area southwest of Bong Son. High­
lighted by valleys, this area was appropriately nicknamed the
"Eagle's Claw." A number of light to moderate contacts were made
as enemy units within the valleys were caught between converging
forces. Meanwhile, the 2d Brigade received some valuable intelli­
gence information. Among the prisoners captured by the division
was a battalion commander of the 22d North Vietnamese Army
Regiment. He revealed that his unit held defensive positions in an
area south of Bong Son. The brigade responded to this intelligence
with an assault into the area and, in three days of continuous
fighting, destroyed the 22d Regiment. While the 2d Brigade was
engaged, the 1st Brigade relieved the 3d Brigade in the Kim Son
Valley and in a matter of days rendered the 18th North Vietnamese
Army Regiment ineffective, capturing all of the enemy antiair­
craft weapons and recoilless rifles.
The final phase of the operation, WHITE WING (BLACK HORSE),
was a sweep into the Cay Giap Mountains southeast of Bong Son.
The sweep, conducted with the South Vietnamese 22d Division,
met only sporadic enemy resistance. By 6 March, 1st Cavalry sky-
troopers had made a complete sweep of Bong Son and the area
could no longer be considered an enemy stronghold. The division
had maintained contact with a determined enemy for 41 consecu­
tive days and had again proved the effectiveness of airmobile op­
For the supporting field artillery involved in Operation
MASHER/WHITE WING, the success of the operation is of particular
significance. The artillery showed that it could follow the fast pace
of the airmobile troopers. Displacements were made quickly and
efficiently without loss of the fire support capability.
At the outset of Operation MASHER on 25 January, the division
artillery forward command post displaced to Bong Son Special
Forces Camp, where it was collocated with the division tactical
operations center and the Vietnamese division command post. The
move greatly facilitated clearance procedures and created a quick
fire channel, which permitted immediate U.S. response to Viet­
namese calls for fire and Vietnamese response to U.S. calls for fire.
Although every attempt was made throughout the operation to
position artillery so that displacements were held to a minimum,
the speed with which ground troops moved and the size of the area

M102 FIRING HIGH-ANGLE. 7^ Battalion, 21st Field Artillery, received

the first M102 howitzers in Vietnam in March 1966.

of operations nonetheless dictated an unusually high number of

artillery displacements. Shown below are battery displacements for
the 41-day period:

Displacements by
Air* Road

W H I T E WING 28 27
W H I T E WING (EAGLE'S CLAW) (11-28 February) 27 35
W H I T E WING (BLACK HORSE) (1-6 March) 0 17
Total 57 109

•Average of 12 CH-47 sorties per battery displacement

When a field artillery unit is moving, it cannot support the

maneuver forces; the displacement that becomes necessary requires
a considerable amount of planning and co-ordination to avoid de­
priving the ground troops of the support they need. Nevertheless,
1st Cavalry artillerymen at all levels of the command met this
challenge. Although most of the personnel assigned to the division
were not strangers to airmobility, many of the supporting units
were; yet they, too, completed air moves without major difficulty.

In early February during Operation WHITE WING, a CH-54

Crane moved a 14,000-pound 155-mm. towed howitzer for the first
time in combat. The weapon belonged to Battery A, 1st Battalion,
30th Artillery. This feat showed that medium towed artillery could
go virtually anywhere the lighter (105-mm.) artillery could go;
thus greater flexibility of the artillery and its supported forces was
achieved. Much of the credit for the move must go to the men of the
1st Cavalry Division Support Command, who fabricated and tested
the special slings required to lift the 155-mm. howitzer.
The large number of displacements by air put a tremendous
strain on the air resources of the division. When the artillery was
displaced by helicopters, ammunition was transported separately.
During MASHER /WHITE WING, artillerymen attempted to deter­
mine a means of economizing on "blade time" in the displacement
of artillery. The product of this experimentation was a double-
sling system that allowed the CH-47 to lift the 105-mm. howitzer as
well as a load of ammunition. The ammunition was suspended
underneath the howitzer by means of a long (18- to 20-foot) sling.
With crew riding inside the CH-47, this new method proved in­
valuable in subsequent operations, since it permitted the displace­
ment of a complete firing section in one aircraft sortie. The initial
attempt to test this concept during combat was not made until
Operation JIM BOWIE, which took place a few days later, though its
development is attributed to the experiences of MASHER /WHITE
The development of procedures to displace artillery during
MASHER /WHITE WING is of secondary importance to the actual
shooting done by the field artillery. Operation MASHER /WHITE
WING testifies to the ability of the field artillery to maintain a
devastating volume of fire and still move and communicate with
the supported forces. During the operation, 141,712 artillery
rounds of all types were fired during 16,102 missions. A breakdown
of expenditures by size and mission is shown below:

Time on Target Enemy Contact

Phase Preparations Missions Missions Total

MASHER 5 26 28 59
W H I T E WING 6 1 20 27
(EAGLE'S CLAW) 50 124 66 240
(BLACK HORSE) 36 6 15 57
Totals 97 157 129 383
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In addition to the artillery expended, the U.S. Navy supported

the operation with 3,212 5-inch rounds, and the U.S. Air Force flew
515 tactical air sorties during which over 1,000 tons of ordnance
were dropped.
Both tube and aerial artillery received a fair share of credit for
enemy killed. Of particular value in this respect was information
gleaned from prisoner interrogations. For example, a prisoner from
the 8th Battalion, 18th North Vietnamese Army Regiment, re­
vealed that on 3 February 1966, at the end of Operation MASHER,
his unit had discovered and buried 200-400 bodies killed by artil­
lery. All told, Operation MASHER /WHITE WING yielded 2,389 en­
emy casualties, of which 358 confirmed dead were credited to the
field artillery.
On the whole, Operation MASHER/ WHITE WING was a tremen­
dous success in defeating the enemy and freeing the civilian popu­
lace of the Bong Son area from enemy control. The complete fire
support system functioned effectively throughout this operation.
Target acquisition resources, artillery survey, artillery aviation,
firing batteries, and support elements all acted as a team. The co­
operative effort and enthusiastic response of the South Vietnamese
artillery contributed significantly to the over-all fire support co­
ordination effort. On the U.S. side, the 2d Battalion (Airborne),
19th Artillery (Airmobile), and the 1st Battalion (Airmobile),
77th Artillery, exchanged liaison personnel during the operation
to permit the direct support battalion of one brigade more easily
to provide support for maneuver units of another brigade. Artillery
communications functioned smoothly throughout the operation,
and, last but not least, despite the vast area covered by the opera­
tion, artillery survey personnel from both division artillery and the
support battalions traversed in excess of 190,000 meters and estab­
lished 18 survey control points during the operation. If there had
been doubts as to how an entire division artillery would fare in its
first large-scale operation, MASHER/WHITE WING erased them.
Another significant 1966 field artillery action occurred during
Operation BIRMINGHAM. This operation is noteworthy because it
involved a major movement of supporting field artillery that re­
quired detailed planning and co-ordination.
The operation was initiated when Military Assistance Com­
mand directed a search and destroy operation into northwest Tay
Ninh Province. Controlled by the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, Op­
eration BIRMINGHAM was directed at locating and destroying Viet
Cong forces and base camps in the area. The 1st Division was
operating in the Phu Loi area, 50 kilometers southeast of Tay Ninh,

when the division commander received word to displace to Tay

Ninh Province within a week. The 1st Division Artillery had to
plan and co-ordinate the displacement of elements from seven field
artillery battalions. The result was the smooth displacement of 72
pieces of field artillery into Tay Ninh Province using all available
means of transportation. The 1st Division Artillery Headquarters,
functioning as the convoy control element, moved by road, with the
1st Battalion, 7th Artillery, and the 8th Battalion, 6th Artillery, in
the formation. Security for the convoy was provided by the 1st
Squadron, 4th Cavalry ("Quarter Horse"). One battery of the 2d
Battalion, 33d Artillery, moved by C-130 aircraft from Lai Khe to
Tay Ninh city. Air Force C-123 aircraft were used to displace a
second battery of the 2d Battalion, 33d Artillery, from Binh Gia,
southeast of Saigon, to Tay Ninh. An attached battery of the 2d
Battalion, 13th Artillery, was airlifted by CH—47 helicopter from
Phu Loi. The 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery, under operational con­
trol of the 1st Division and in support of the South Vietnamese
Airborne Brigade, moved separately by road; and a battery of 175­
mm. guns, in general support of Operation BIRMINGHAM, moved by
road to Soui Da. To insure continuous and sufficient fire support
for the road moves, the 1 st Division Artillery Headquarters utilized
its headquarters battery executive officer to co-ordinate fire support
along the route of march.
Brigadier General (then Colonel) Marlin W. Camp, 1st Divi­
sion Artillery commander, was justifiably proud of the manner in
which the move was conducted. The success of the move is espe­
cially significant because friendly units had not ventured deep into
northwest Tay Ninh Province in the past.
For field force artillery to provide maximum area coverage,
certain of its firing units were required to occupy extremely remote
positions. In such cases, movement to the positions and position
preparation required detailed planning. Those weapons that pro­
vided the best area coverage by virtue of their long ranges were
self-propelled weapons—8-inch howitzers and 175-mm. guns—too
heavy to move by helicopter. For the most part, the "heavies" were
restricted to movement by road.
Some of the roads over which self-propelled weapons moved
were in remote areas which had long been in enemy hands. These
roads could be expected to be heavily mined with their bridges
destroyed. Extensive engineer support was required to open those
roads and the engineers, like the artillery that followed, were sub­
ject to ambush at any time. Infantry and armor support was re­
quired to help open the roads, provide protection, and keep the

roads open at least until the artillery movement was completed and
support withdrawn.
In a war characterized by the frequent movement of field artil­
lery, the displacement of Battery B, 7th Battalion, 8th Field Artil­
lery, in September 1967 is particularly impressive. The movement
of Battery B was unusual because it was accomplished by Air Force
tactical airlift. The battery, under the cammand of Captain Edward
G. Walker, was moved from Bien Hoa air base to a landing strip
at Song Be in heavily contested Phuc Long Province. To make the
move, the weight of the weapons had to be reduced to the lift
capacity of the aircraft. This was done by removing the weapons'
spades and tubes and transporting them by C-130 aircraft. The
carriages could then be lifted by C-124's. B Battery was positioned
at the end of the Song Be airstrip from where its weapons could
easily reach to the Cambodian border. The men of B Battery
worked on their new position for a month and then turned it over
to B Battery, 6th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery. Both batteries
swapped their weapons to avoid the problem of having again to
move weapons to and from a remote area. The artillery position at
Song Be was occupied until June 1971. The weapons could not be
withdrawn by air in the same manner in which they had been
moved to Song Be, since the landing strip was able to accommodate
aircraft landing at peak capacity loads but was insufficient to allow
them to take off with these same loads. The weapons were, there­
fore, withdrawn over a road that had been opened and improved
during the four years that the Song Be position was occupied.
As noted earlier, the first combat firing of the Beehive round
occurred in November 1966. But it was the battle at Landing Zone
BIRD in December that really woke up field artillerymen and in­
fantrymen to the effectiveness of this new round.
BIRD was a fire base located in the Kim Son Valley some 50
kilometers north of Qui Nhon. (Map 6) No strangers to the valley,
the 1st Cavalry Division had operated throughout the area since
Operation MASHER /WHITE WING early in 1966. The landing zone
had only one half-strength infantry company (Company C, 2d Bat­
talion, 12th Cavalry) for security in addition to twelve howitzers
(six 105-mm. and six 155-mm.). The surrounding terrain afforded
good cover for an enemy force that might decide to attack the base.
On the night of 26 December 1966, two companies of the 22d
North Vietnamese Army Regiment decided to test the light de­
fenses and silently moved to within feet of the outer perimeter of
Shortly after midnight the enemy launched a co-ordinated mor­
tar and ground attack against the position. The attack penetrated


(notto scale)


the base from both the northeast and southeast. Driven slowly back,
the defenders found themselves cornered in the south end of the
base in the vicinity of gun number 2 of the 105-mm. battery posi­
tion. Almost in desperation, Captain Leonard L. Schlenker, the
battery commander, ordered the firing of Beehive and First Lieu­
tenant John T. Piper, the battery executive officer, loaded the
round, yelled a warning, and fired the round to the northeast in
the direction of the enemy main attack. One hundred enemy sol­
diers were at the northeast corner of the fire base, in and around the

number 1 gun position of the 155-mm. battery. Piper fired one

additional round and the attack was halted as suddenly as it had
The United States lost 30 men killed in action at BIRD while
claiming 266 known enemy dead. For doggedly beating back a
determined and numerically superior enemy, the three units at
BIRD (Battery B, 2d Battalion, 19th Artillery; Battery C, 6th Bat­
talion, 16th Artillery; and Company C, 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry)
were all presented the Presidential Unit Citation. Sergeant Delbert
O. Jennings, weapons platoon sergeant, was awarded the Medal of
Honor for his bravery, and Lieutenant Piper and Staff Sergeant
Carrol V. Crain, Battery B chief of firing battery, both received the
Distinguished Service Cross for their action.
The most important benefit derived from the action at BIRD
was recognition that the Beehive round was a tremendously valu­
able asset to the over-all fire base defense program. It had gained
the confidence and respect of both artillerymen and infantrymen
and would continue to play a vital role in position defense through­
out the remainder of the war.

The Buildup and Major Combat Operations During 1967

The year 1967 saw a continued growth in the number of field

artillery units in the Republic of Vietnam. During that year, eleven
nondivisional field artillery battalions arrived in Vietnam and be­
gan supporting operations in various parts of the country. They
were joined by three additional division artilleries. In January, the
9th Division Artillery set up its headquarters in Bearcat, and in late
1967, the remainder of the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne
Division joined their 1st Brigade. In a ceremony held at Chu Lai in
September 1967, Task Force OREGON was redesignated the 23d
(Americal) Division and thus was also born the Americal Division
Artillery. The task force had been in existence since mid-1967 and
was composed of three separate infantry brigades.
In contrast to the previous year, 1967 was highlighted by large-
scale, multidivisional operations. The year was only a week old
when Operation CEDAR FALLS began. Controlled by II Field Force,
CEDAR FALLS involved the 1st and 25th Divisions, the 173d Air­
borne Brigade, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and separate
battalions of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The operation
was directed against the enemy Military Region IV headquarters
and strongholds in the Iron Triangle region of III Corps. The
success of the operation (389 enemy killed, 471 defectors) attested

to the ability of the Free World forces to work together, fight side
by side, and produce a well co-ordinated, multidivision offensive.
While CEDAR FALLS was in full swing in the Iron Triangle, II
Field Force planners were putting the final wraps on plans for
subsequent operations. The largest offensive planned to date, Op­
eration JUNCTION CITY had been on the drawing boards for months.
It was aimed at Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army strong­
holds in War Zone C, in northern Tay Ninh Province, which had
long been a major Viet Cong stronghold and the location of the
headquarters for the Central Office of South Vietnam (COSVN).
COSVN, the controlling headquarters for all Viet Cong activities
in South Vietnam, had always been an elusive target and continued
to be throughout the war.
Committed to JUNCTION CITY were two U.S. divisions (1st and
25th), five brigades (173d Airborne; 196th Light Infantry; 199th
Light Infantry; 3d Brigade, 4th Division; and 1st Brigade, 9th
Division), and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. II Field Force,
Vietnam, under the command of Lieutenant General Jonathan O.
Seaman, was the controlling headquarters for the operation. II
Field Force Artillery, commanded by Brigadier General Willis D.
Crittenberger, Jr., provided six field artillery battalions and four
batteries of Dusters and quad.-50 machine guns from the 5th Bat­
talion (AWSP), 2d Artillery. II Field Force assets were divided
equally between the 1st and 25th Divisions, the two major sub­
ordinate elements. An additional eleven artillery battalions were
committed to the operation in various support roles. A list of the
participating field artillery units is shown below:
II Field Force Artillery Units
7-9 Arty (105 T) attached 1st Div
2-13 Arty (105 T), attached 1st Div
2-11 Arty (155 T)
6-27 Arty (8/175)
2-32 Arty (8/175)
2-35 Arty (155 SP)
5-2 Arty (AWSP)
25th Infantry Division Artillery
1-8 Arty (105 T)
7-11 Arty (105 T)
2-77 (Arty 105 T)
3-13 Arty (105 T)
3-82 Arty (105 T) OPCON, DS 196th Bde
Btry A, B, C, 11th ACR, OPCON, Supporting 11th ACR
1st Infantry Division Artillery
1-5 Arty (105 T)

1-7 Arty (105 T)

2-33 Arty (105 T)
8-6 Arty (155/8)
3-319 Arty (Abn) (105 T), OPCON, DS 173d Abn Bde
JUNCTION CITY was initially a two-phase operation; Phase I (22
February-17 March 1967) called for a co-ordinated assault into
western War Zone C and search and destroy operations against the
Central Office and enemy forces and installations in the area. Phase
II (18 March-15 April 1967) called for a shift of emphasis to
eastern War Zone C and continuation of search and destroy opera­
tions throughout the remainder of the war zone. The success of
these first two phases resulted in a third (16 April-14 May), which
called for a continuation of search and destroy operations to the
southern edge of the war zone and the provision of security for the
city of Tay Ninh and the town of Soui Da. (Map 7) For Phase III,
II Field Force passed control of the operation to the 25th Infantry
The objectives of Operation JUNCTION CITY were accomplished
to varying degrees. The Viet Cong lost 2,728 soldiers. A number of
his base camps and supply caches were destroyed, forcing him to
move. Although the operation did not destroy the enemy's capa­
bility to wage war, JUNCTION CITY can be said to have put him
significantly off balance and to have eliminated War Zone C as a
haven for enemy units. During the operation, U.S. forces con­
structed in War Zone C three C-130 airfields and two civilian
irregular defense group camps, giving Free World forces readily
accessible points from which to launch future operations in the
area should the need arise.
JUNCTION CITY required most of the U.S. ground forces avail­
able in the III Corps area, and a commensurate amount of field
artillery supported the operation. The massive co-ordination effort
dictated by the employment of the equivalent of seventeen field
artillery battalions was effected with surprising ease. The complete­
ness with which the operation was planned is, in large part, the
explanation for its success. To facilitate command and control of
the operation, II Field Force for the first time displaced a tactical
headquarters to the field. Collocated with the tactical command
post was the II Field Force Artillery command post. In addition,
II Field Force Artillery tapped the resources of its 54th Artillery
Group to provide a controlling headquarters for the separate
howitzer batteries of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The
technique proved to be a success in aiding the co-ordination be­
tween firing units. For the remainder of the field artillery battal­
ions, existing liaison sections proved sufficient in strength to provide

liaison between units. Unit boundaries were used as fire co­

ordination lines throughout the operations, and the II Field Force
fire support plan authorized direct co-ordination between divisions
and supporting artillery groups. Field artillery fire planning was
accomplished by division and separate brigades.
The most significant combat action during Operation JUNCTION
CITY took place around Fire Support Base GOLD, seventeen miles
northwest of Tay Ninh. The fire base was occupied jointly by the
2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, of the 3d Brigade, 4th Division, and the
headquarters and all firing batteries of the 2d Battalion, 77th Field
Artillery. At 0640 on 21 March infantry patrols sweeping the area
around GOLD made contact with elements of a Viet Cong force
apparently preparing to attack the base. The contact prematurely
triggered the enemy attack which began with heavy fire from re­
coilless rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and 60-mm. and 82-mm.
mortars. At 0715 the Viet Cong launched a co-ordinated ground
assault from the east, southeast, and north with elements of five
battalions under the control of the 272d Viet Cong Regiment. So
violent was the assault that the enemy carried portions of the
perimeter, but actions by the field artillery turned the tide. All
batteries of the 2d Battalion, 77th Field Artillery, commanded by
Lieutenant Colonel John W. Vessey, engaged the enemy with over
1,000 rounds in direct fire including 30 rounds of Beehive, the
largest number of these rounds fired in a single engagement to
date. At the same time three batteries within range added their
fire. The batteries included Battery C, 1st Battalion, 8th Artillery
(105-mm., towed), to the south which delivered more than 1,000
rounds; Battery B, 3d Battalion, 13th Artillery (155-mm., self-
propelled), which delivered almost 400 rounds; and a composite
8-inch and 175-mm. battery from II Field Force Artillery to the
south which provided additional support. Further fire support was
provided by Air Force tactical air. During the attack two maneuver
battalions of the 3d Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, were rushed to
the scene, catching the enemy forces as they were attempting to
withdraw and inflicting further casualties. The action in and
around GOLD resulted in 635 Viet Cong killed (confirmed by body
count) and 7 captured together with 65 crew served weapons and
94 individual weapons. U.S. losses were 31 killed and 109 wounded.
The action was given the name Battle of Soui Tre after the fact.
Field artillery units involved in Operation JUNCTION CITY
gained invaluable experience in employment, tactics, and tech­
niques in a large-scale, multidivision offensive operation. To help
preserve the element of surprise, field artillery units usually fired
preparations of short duration; the fires of large numbers of units

22 FEB-14 MAY 1967




1 To Loc Ninh



To Saigon r—To Saigon


were massed to insure the effectiveness of preparations yet to main­

tain brevity. A problem was the lack of a large number of suitable
field artillery positions. Thus, several artillery units were often
consolidated at one location. Landing Zone BLACKHORSE at one
point in the operation housed 52 field artillery tubes—five 105-mm.
batteries, three 155-mm. batteries, and an 8-inch battery. The dis­
advantages of crowding artillery into one location and presenting
a lucrative target were far outweighed by being able to mass ac­
curately the fires of a large number of weapons from a few locations.
Since the element of surprise was essential, extensive position
area surveys were impractical; the field artillery instead employed
a relatively new technique called photogrammetic survey. Basically,
the technique utilized air reconnaissance photos, the prominent
terrain features in the photos serving as registration points and
survey control points for position area survey. Although limited,
the method proved far superior to that of obtaining co-ordinates
by map inspection and served as a valuable expedient during the
Several other artillery-related techniques used successfully dur­
ing JUNCTION CITY deserve mention:
1. Artillery warning control centers (AWCC's) played a vital
role in the operation. The tremendous number of aircraft in the
area coupled with the large amount of constant artillery firing ne­
cessitated timely and accurate artillery advisories for aircraft. The
1st and 25th Divisions operated centers for their respective areas
of operation during Phase I of the operation. During Phase II,
such responsibility was delegated to the direct support artillery
battalion in each brigade area of operation. The advantage of this
system was that data were always current and did not have to be
consolidated at a central location. One center in an area as large
as that encompassed by JUNCTION CITY would necessitate an un­
acceptably heavy volume of radio traffic.
2. High-angle fire was proved to be more effective in penetrat­
ing the thick jungle foliage than low-angle fire, principally because
the projectile descended steeply, paralleling the tree trunks, so
that the chance of its hitting a tree and detonating prematurely
was reduced. High-angle fire in the jungle also assured added
safety for supported ground troops. If high-angle fires detonated
prematurely, they did so almost directly over their target. On the
other hand, if low-angle fires detonated prematurely they did so
some distance laterally from the target, possibly directly over the
heads of friendly troops.
3. During the operation, the effectiveness of the AN/MPQ-4A
radar was proven. Careful planning prior to the operation resulted

in the placement of radars to provide mutual and overlapping cover­

age of the various units and fire support bases. Each radar had
a primary direction of coverage as well as alternate directions.
If a fire base came under attack, usually a radar at another fire
base would pick up the enemy rounds before the radar on the
fire base under attack would. This flexibility greatly enhanced the
ability of U.S. forces to deliver rapid counterbattery fire.
4. On D-day, 22 February 1967, the artillerymen of Battery A,
3d Battalion, 319th Artillery, under operational control of the 2d
Battalion, 503d Infantry, 173d Airborne, participated in the only
U.S. parachute assault conducted in the war. Led by the battery
commander, Captain Charles C. Anderson, the entire battery para­
chuted into the area around Katum. The howitzers were dropped
into the landing zone by C-130's. From a position established in
the vicinity of the landing zone, Battery A provided direct artillery
support for search and destroy operations conducted by maneuver
elements in the vicinity of Katum.
In spite of the magnitude of the operation and the amount of
artillery involved in JUNCTION CITY, there were surprisingly few
problem areas of major significance. The most significant was in
fire support. During the operation, field artillery fires were fre­
quently lifted to accommodate tactical air support, which is a bad
practice. If supporting fires are properly co-ordinated, the need to
check fire field artillery should rarely occur. When it does occur
maneuver forces are slighted because only when all available sup­
porting fires, regardless of type, are able to function simultaneously
will they provide the best possible support.
On the whole, JUNCTION CITY was a successful operation. In
the years of combat that followed, U.S. and allied forces main­
tained the capability of re-entering War Zone C at will. All artil­
lerymen participating in the operation could take great pride in
having contributed so effectively to the accomplishment of the mis­
Perhaps it is only fitting that 1967, the "year of the big battles,"
should end as it had begun. Operation JUNCTION CITY began the
year; the battle for Dak To ended it. Although much of the heavy
fighting in 1967 took place in the south (for example, CEDAR FALLS,
JUNCTION CITY, and the battle at Loc Ninh), Dak To was to the
north in the Central Highlands of Kontum Province. The battle
for Dak To was part of MACARTHUR, an operation that extended
into early 1969.
Reacting to intelligence reports that indicated a large buildup
of enemy troops in Kontum Province, the 4th Infantry Division
deployed its 1st Brigade to the Dak To airfield in late October

1967. On 2 November, a North Vietnamese Army reconnaissance

sergeant defected and revealed that four infantry regiments and an
artillery regiment were preparing to launch a large-scale attack
against the Dak To-Tanh Canh area. This would have been the
largest enemy offensive in the Central Highlands area to that time.
The 1st Brigade initially made heavy contact with the enemy to
the south and southwest of Dak To throughout the first week in
November. Augmented by the 173d Airborne Brigade, the 1st
Brigade maintained heavy contact throughout the Ben Het-Dak To
area. Additional assistance came from the 42d South Vietnamese
Army Regiment, operating to the east of Dak To, and from the 1st
Brigade, 1st Air Cavalry Division, which blocked enemy withdrawal
routes to the south of Ben Het-Dak To. As the fighting intensified,
the enemy was forced to commit his reserves to cover his withdrawal
toward the southwest. The bitter fighting that followed ranks with
the fiercest of the war. The turning point of the action was the fight
for Hill 875, which was finally taken by elements of both the 4th
Division and the 173d Airborne Brigade but not before the hill
"received the heaviest concentration of Tac Air and all calibers
of artillery bombardment of any single terrain feature in the II
Corps area."
After the operation, Major General William R. Peers, com­
mander of the 4th Division, acknowledged the role played by the
artillery in the battle: "The large number of enemy in the area
and the fact that many of the contacts were against elaborately
constructed enemy fortifications required that Tac Air and artil­
lery be used at the maximum rates possible. The responsiveness of
both air and artillery and the cooperation between them contrib­
uted greatly to the victory and was a real tribute to integrated
direct support under difficult circumstances."
The artillery committed in the battle of Dak To consisted of
15 batteries of all calibers, with a total of 77 artillery pieces avail­
able for support. These figures do not include the battery of aerial
rocket artillery that became available when the 1st Brigade of the
1st Cavalry Division joined the operation on 11 November. Battery
A (ARA), 2d Battalion, 20th Artillery, assumed a general support-
reinforcing role. The U.S. aerial rocket artillery, coupled with the
enemy's use of rockets, led to the unfamiliar sight of rockets being
employed against rockets.
Artillery expenditures for the 37-day period exceeded 150,000
rounds of all calibers. Artillery units completed 48 tactical dis­
placements to meet the constantly changing demands of the battle.
To eliminate fire support co-ordination problems, the 4th Infantry
Division Artillery sent a tactical command post to Dak To on 9
(not to scale)



November and U.S. artillery batteries provided liaison personnel

to the fire direction centers of the three supporting Vietnamese
artillery batteries. The effectiveness of the fire support co-ordination
effort is evidenced by the successful integration of 2,096 tactical
air sorties and 45 B-52 strikes during the operation. The battle
of Dak To cost the enemy 1,644 lives and rendered three North
Vietnamese Army infantry regiments ineffective, totally disrupting
enemy plans for a major victory in the Central Highlands.
The holiday truce ended abruptly on New Year's Day 1968 for
the defenders of Fire Support Base BURT, a 25th Infantry Division
base located ten kilometers south of the Cambodian border. (Map
8) Beginning with sporadic mortar attacks in the late afternoon, the
enemy sent four Viet Cong battalions against the base. Among
the defenders were two batteries of 105-mm. and one battery of
155-mm. howitzers. The enemy ground attack commenced minutes
before midnight, the official end of the truce. After a diversionary
attack on the west side of the perimeter, defended by elements of the
2d Battalion, 22d Infantry (Mechanized), the enemy launched his
main attack from the southeast, a sector defended by Company C,
3d Battalion, 22d Infantry, and Battery C, 2d Battalion, 77th Artil­
lery. As the enemy slowly worked his way toward the bunker line,
the artillery shifted from countermortar to direct fire in answer to a
call from the infantry command post. Battery C began firing a heavy
volume of direct fire with both high explosive and Beehive am­
munition. The enemy attack slowed in the face of the artillery but
picked up to the south of the fire support base, a sector manned by
Company C, 2d Battalion, 22d Infantry, and Battery A, 2d Battalion,
77th Artillery. Battery A commenced direct fire, and flare ships and
armed helicopters were used extensively throughout the south side
of the base. Fire Support Base BEAUREGARD, located twelve kilo­
meters to the west, provided supporting fire west of BURT in an
attempt to prevent the enemy from reinforcing or withdrawing in
that direction. The 155-mm. (self-propelled) howitzers of Battery
C, 3d Battalion, 13th Artillery, located on the north side of the fire
base, supplied continuous direct fire to the north, northeast, and
northwest. In addition to the direct fire, indirect fire from both
BURT and BEAUREGARD was shifted out to the road running south
from BURT. Although they were not discovered until daylight, two
enemy battalions were assembled on that road as a reserve force to
exploit weaknesses in the perimeter, If weaknesses existed, the two
battalions never found them. By 0300, tactical air had arrived and
was pounding the area to the south. The fires of the artillery gun­
ships and tactical air broke up the Viet Cong attack: by 0600 contact
was broken and 400 enemy lay dead in and around the base.

not to scale




Diagram 7. Battery A, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 320th Artillery,

fire base.

The artillerymen of the 25th Division played a vital role in the

success of the operation. In addition to maintaining a constant
stream of both direct and indirect fire, artillery personnel cut out
hasty landing zones for resupply aircraft and broke out and distrib­
uted over 1,500 rounds of artillery and mortar ammunition and
200,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition, all during the hours of
darkness and in the heat of battle. In addition, they established an
improvised air station in the fire direction center of Battery C, 2d
Battalion, 77th Artillery, and assisted in the treatment and evacua­
tion of the wounded.
Despite the heroic actions of the 25th Division personnel, the
battle cost 23 lives and 153 wounded. The successful integration of
infantry, artillery, and air power had saved Fire Support Base BURT.
The battle of Soui Cut is a typical example of many such actions
that occurred during the war in Vietnam. It is representative of
well co-ordinated position defense and fire support.
A second example of a determined defense by field artillerymen
occupying a fire base occurred during the early morning hours of
14 October 1967. Battery A, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 320th Artil­
lery (105-mm.), and Battery C, 3d Battalion, 16th Artillery (155­
mm.), were occupying an unnamed fire base on a ridge line in
support of elements of the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 327th Infantry,
of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, during Operation
WHEELER. The fire base, which had been occupied for almost a
month, was located halfway between Tam Ky and Thien Phuoc in
the I Corps region.

To assist in the defense of the base, a force of 75 civilian irregu­

lar defense group (CIDG) personnel manned the perimeter
bunkers. For further security, Battery A nightly posted guards at
each howitzer, the fire direction center, and the ammunition sec­
tion. Because of the difficulty in distinguishing them from the
enemy at night, the irregulars had been instructed to remain within
their bunkers during the hours of darkness.
The perimeter bunkers were on the edge of a steep dropoff
along the narrow ridge line. Because of the steepness of the slope,
it was impossible to observe activity directly below the bunkers. It
was up these steep slopes that a platoon of sappers crept during the
early morning hours and pre-positioned themselves for an attack on
the 105-mm. battery. Their objective was to capture the weapons
and turn them on the 155-mm. battery and infantry battalion head­
quarters, which were located on either side of the 105-mm. battery
At 0320, in extreme darkness, mortars, rockets, and recoilless
rifles unleashed a devastating barrage on the area in conjunction
with the sapper attack. Every position within the battery area was
known to the enemy before the attack. The radios in the fire direc­
tion center were destroyed immediately. A sapper tossed a grenade
into the center and then reached in and placed a satchel charge di­
rectly on top of the two VRC^16 radios. The enemy so effectively
infiltrated the battery area that the artillerymen had no chance to
repulse the initial attack; instead, the fighting began within the
parapets. That the crewmen of the weapons were able to return
fire with their howitzers testified to their discipline and courage.
Although the enemy seemed to be everywhere in the battery area,
the battery commander, executive officer, and first sergeant,
though wounded, moved from weapon to weapon, helping the more
seriously wounded and assisting in the delivery of fire.
Each weapon parapet had its own private war going by this time.
All the men of number 1 section had been wounded by the initial
mortar attack; nevertheless, the section chief, Staff Sergeant Web­
ster Anderson, and his men moved into the parapet and directed fire
upon the enemy. Grenades fell all around them, but neither Ander­
son nor his men faltered. Two mortar rounds landed at Anderson's
feet and severely mangled his lower legs. Although in great pain,
he managed to move around in the protective parapet and contin­
ued to inspire his men. When a grenade landed next to one of his
wounded cannoneers, Anderson grabbed the grenade and threw it
from the parapet. In the process, his hand was blown off. The
executive officer came upon number 1 weapon at this time and,
seeing Sergeant Anderson's condition, moved him to medical aid.


OPERATION WHEELER. An example of a small, crowded ridgeline

For his actions, Sergeant Anderson later received the Medal of

By now the battery commander had retrieved the sole remain­
ing radio and had directed defensive fires upon the enemy weapon
positions. These fires, in conjunction with direct fires from the
105-mm. howitzers, silenced the enemy. The Viet Cong were
finally driven from the battery perimeter after more than two hours
of close combat. The infantry battalion headquarters and the
155-mm. battery had not received a single enemy round during the
battle. Because of the unknown nature and size of the enemy force,
these two units were forced to man their own defenses and were
initially unable to assist Battery A. Because of extremely bad
weather, the only aircraft flying that night were medical evacuation
helicopters, and even they had to be directed into the fire base by
the battalion Q-4 radar, which was collocated with the 155-mm.
battery. A total of three medevac aircraft evacuated the wounded
and dead from the battery area under the worst possible flying con­
Morning found Battery A with 6 killed and 29 wounded out of

an initial strength of 49. Twenty-two of the wounded required

evacuation. The civilian irregulars lost 6 killed and 5 wounded.
Fifty-six craters from 82-mm. mortar rounds were counted in the
battery position. At least five mortar rounds had landed in each
section parapet. Rocket and recoilless rifle flashes had been observed
and fired upon by the 105-mm. and 155-mm. batteries. Although the
105-mm. battery was hurt badly during the attack, the objective of
the enemy force was not realized. The field artillerymen stood by
their weapons in the face of overwhelming odds and repulsed the
enemy from the battery area without losing a single howitzer.
Still another example of determined defense of a fire support
base occurred on 18 November 1967 at the opposite end of the
country from Operation WHEELER, at Fire Support Base CUDGEL. It
was one of three bases established in support of 9th Infantry Divi­
sion units participating in Operation KEN GIANG in western Dinh
Thong Province.
The operation began at dawn on 15 November from a staging
area at Dong Tarn, the 9th Division command post. In order to lo­
cate an area of dry ground large enough to accommodate four guns
of his 105-mm. howitzer battery, the commander of Battery C, 2d
Battalion, 4th Artillery, Captain Dennis J. Schaible, accompanied
the first flight of infantry. For security reasons, reconnaissance of the
area had been limited to one brief flyover three days before the
operation. Forty-five minutes after the insertion, the battery com­
mander had located an area suitable for the four howitzers. This
area was later named Fire Support Base CUDGEL. Fifteen minutes
after the crews had lowered the first howitzer to the mushy ground,
Battery C commenced preparation fires in support of positions pre­
viously selected for the other two fire bases. Later in the morning
after the insertion of two infantry battalions into the area of opera­
tions, three howitzers of Battery D, 2d Battalion, 4th Artillery,
joined Battery C at CUDGEL. Battery D was the first battery em­
ployed in Vietnam with the airmobile firing platform, and this was
its first operation. The four guns of Battery C were positioned near
the northern perimeter and the three guns of Battery D flanked the
southern portion of the perimeter. With the addition of elements
(battalion headquarters, Company C, and the reconnaissance pla­
toon) from the 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry, which would join the
two artillery batteries at CUDGEL on the 17 th, the cast of players was
set for the battle of Fire Support Base CUDGEL.
The base was bordered on the west by a canal approximately 33
feet wide and 10 feet deep. On the north was a canal with similar
dimensions and running east to west. To the south were scrub woods
and thick undergrowth, and to the east were open rice paddies. The

reconnaissance platoon was deployed on the western portion of the

perimeter across the north-south canal, since the canal offered a
good line of protection against enemy advance and was a good ter­
rain feature on which to fix the twoflanksof the company defensive
position. The right flank of the reconnaissance platoon, on the
west side of the canal, was linked with the left flank of the 2d Pla­
toon, Company C, which was on the east side of the canal. The 2d
Platoon stretched to the east and linked up with the 4th Platoon,
which extended south. The right flank of the 4th Platoon linked
with the 3d Platoon, which deployed south and west to tie in
with the 1st Platoon on the south. The right flank of the 1st Platoon,
on the east side of the north-south canal, joined with the left flank
of the reconnaissance platoon, along the west side of the canal. In
addition to the perimeter established by the infantry company and
reconnaissance platoon, Battery C had prepared automatic weapons
positions on the east side of the north-south canal as a backup de­
fensive position. A hot line between the battery fire direction center
and the infantry battalion command post provided vital communi­
cations for the integrated defense.
Intelligence had disclosed a heavy concentration of Viet Cong
forces in the area. Battery C cannoneers prepared sandbagged posi­
tions as a precaution before dark on their first night at the fire sup­
port base. They improved their positions at every opportunity
during the occupation of CUDGEL. Preparations were extremely
difficult because the water level was less than one foot below the
ground. All the foxholes filled with water and most of the protec­
tion had to be constructed above the soggy surface of the base.
Soon after the occupation of the perimeter by the reconnais­
sance platoon, one member of the platoon saw what he thought to
be someone wearing a helmet and crouching next to a stand of
palm trees directly west of the position. The soldier was unarmed
at the time; when he returned with his weapon to investigate, he
could find nothing and did not report the incident.
At 2130 the men of one of the listening posts set out by the
reconnaissance platoon intercepted a Viet Cong scout and killed
him with a burst from an M60 machine gun. Around 0150 the
south side of the fire support base perimeter came under heavy fire.
The 1st Platoon of Company C was in danger of being overrun.
Within minutes, an intense mortar barrage fell on the positions
occupied by the reconnaissance platoon and Battery C. This seemed
to be a signal for enemy forces on the southwest of the perimeter
to attack the reconnaissance platoon positions. It was later esti­
mated that one company assaulted the reconnaissance platoon on
the south and west to provide a base of fire with mortars and


(not to scale)



recoilless rifles while two companies maneuvered against Company

C on the south.
When the mortar barrage began in the Battery C area, most of
the men cried "incoming" and dived for protection. The battery
commander and the fire direction officer (FDO) were in the fire
direction center. Within seconds after the first mortar rounds burst
in the battery area, the officer was on the radio requesting that
supporting artillery prepare to fire the defensive concentrations to
the south and west of the battery position. At the same time the
battery commander was on the hot line to the infantry battalion
command post and informed the infantry battalion commander
that the fire direction center was in contact with the mutually
supporting artillery and requested permission from the battalion
commander to call for defensive concentrations. Though permis­
sion was quickly granted, it was ten to fifteen minutes before the
first artillery support from a sister battery was received. The enemy
had also mortared Fire Support Base MACE, a few kilometers away,
just before the ground and mortar attack on CUDGEL. (Map 9)

The battery supporting CUDGEL was also supporting MACE and was
already engaged in a fire mission when the call from the Battery C
fire direction center was received.
In the battle that raged for the next 11/4 hours, the Viet Cong
forces made a desperate attempt to penetrate the southwest portion
of the perimeter by overrunning the reconnaissance platoon left
flank and Company C right flank. They came perilously close to
achieving their goal.
The reconnaissance platoon and the 1st and 3d Platoons of
Company C were the most heavily engaged infantry forces during
the battle. The fighting in their sector was so fierce and at such
close range that each position seemed to be isolated by intense
enemy fire in a struggle for individual survival. The battle had
been going on for approximately 30 minutes when the reconnais­
sance platoon leader gave the order to pull back across the canal to
the positions occupied by Battery C. As the platoon evacuated its
position, the enemy rushed forward and set up recoilless rifle and
automatic weapons positions aimed point blank into the Battery
C position across the canal.
As soon as the reconnaissance platoon began to withdraw across
the canal, Battery C was subjected to intensive automatic rifle, rifle
grenade, and recoilless rifle fire. The battery commander requested
and received permission from the infantry battalion commander to
engage the advancing Viet Cong units with direct artillery fire.
Permission to fire Beehive rounds was withheld, however, until the
reconnaissance platoon had crossed the canal. Three of the four
howitzers had been firing an illumination mission when the attack
began and were pointed away from the direction of the enemy ad­
vance. Within a few minutes, the crews had turned the pieces
around and taken the onrushing enemy under fire. The battery
commander and the chiefs of sections adjusted the high-explosive
direct fire while the fire direction officer was on the radio adjusting
the indirect supporting fire.
The Viet Cong countered with recoilless rifle and heavy ma­
chine gun fire. The first round from the recoilless rifle missed the
guns and its flash provided a target for howitzer number 2. The
cannoneers of number 2 fired at the recoilless rifle, but their first
round was low. It struck the canal just below the target, exploded
on contact with the bank, and sent mud and fragments back into
the battery position. As the crew was about to fire a second round,
a recoilless rifle scored a direct hit on the front carriage of the
howitzer. The blast wounded the entire section. The tires and
sling-load cushioning on the howitzer burst into flame. One of the
cannoneers, Private First Class Sammy L. Davis, struggled to his

feet and returned to the now furiously burning howitzer. Disre­

garding a hail of small-arms fire directed against the position, he
aimed and fired the howitzer. The damaged weapon recoiled vio­
lently and slammed Davis to the ground. Undaunted, he returned
to the piece, but a mortar round exploded within 20 meters of his
position and compounded his wounds. Private Davis loaded the
howitzer, aimed it, and fired; this time he destroyed the recoilless
rifle. Again the recoil of the howitzer knocked him to the ground,
sent the howitzer skidding into a hole, and rendered it inoperable.
By this time, most of the reconnaissance platoon had reached
the friendly side of the canal. The artillerymen of Battery C
dragged many of the infantrymen from the canal. Three men
from one of the platoon listening posts were not so fortunate; the
Viet Cong attack had cut them off. As the battle progressed, a round
from another battery landed immediately in front of them. They
decided that they must abandon their position or be annihilated by
their own artillery. As they started back, another artillery round
landed behind them and wounded two of the three men. They con­
tinued to low crawl back toward the canal. As they reached the
bank of the canal, they saw the recoilless rifle that Davis had
knocked out. Not knowing that the round that had knocked out the
recoilless rifle had also put the howitzer out of action, they yelled
across to the artillery to cease firing. Hearing their cries for help,
Davis and another member of number 2 gun section, Private First
Class William H. Murray, went to help the wounded men. Despite
his painful wounds and his inability to swim, Davis picked up an
air mattress and he and Murray struck out across the deep canal to
rescue three men. Upon reaching the men, all of whom had by
this time sustained wounds, Davis took up a position on the canal
bank and fired on the Viet Cong, who were swarming the western
bank, while Murray ferried the most seriously wounded infantry­
man across the canal. After emptying five magazines into the charg­
ing enemy, Davis and Murray floated the remaining two wounded
infantrymen across the canal. Though still suffering from neglected
wounds, Davis refused medical attention, joined another howitzer
crew, and assisted in firing until the attack was broken later in the
morning. For his action, Private Davis received the Medal of
Honor, which was presented to him by President Johnson at the
White House exactly one year from the date of the battle.
While Davis was fighting his private battle with the recoilless
rifle, the other howitzer sections were also heavily engaged. By 0245
the 3d Platoon, manning the southern perimeter, had fallen back
to the battery position. The platoon leader had been seriously
wounded and the platoon sergeant killed. With a second side of the

perimeter now open, gun number 4 once again shifted trails to level
direct fire south into the vacant perimeter area. Throughout the
raging battle, the battery commander continually requested permis­
sion to fire Beehive in hopes of breaking up the attack. Finally per­
mission came, and Battery C fired a total of 21 Beehive rounds. Just
after the first of these was fired, number 3 gun received a direct hit
from a recoilless rifle. Although the recoil mechanism was leaking
oil, the crew continued to fire the Beehive rounds until the piece
would no longer return to battery. As the last of the Beehive rounds
was fired, and almost as quickly as the firing had begun, that attack
withered. By this time helicopter gunships and a C-47 Spooky had
arrived on station to add their fire power against the retreating
enemy forces.
When the battle was over, 22 of the 44 artillerymen of Battery
C had been wounded. Two of the 4 howitzers had been destroyed
and over 600 direct fire rounds, including the 21 Beehive rounds,
had been fired at the enemy. The infantry suffered 6 killed and 76
wounded. The official number of enemy killed in the operation was
placed at 83, but estimates of the actual enemy losses were more
than twice that number. The efforts of Private Davis and the other
field artillerymen in Battery C turned what could have been a
Viet Cong victory into a clear defeat.

Overview: 1965 to Pre-Tet 1968

As 1967 drew to an end, the enemy was busy formulating plans
for an offensive to be launched throughout Vietnam in celebration
of Tet 1968. The eve of Tet is a good vantage point from which to
look back on the U.S. field artillery's first 2i/2 years of combat in
Beginning on 5 May 1965, with the commitment of the 3d Bat­
talion (Airborne), 319th Artillery, the U.S. Army involvement had
increased until 54 artillery battalions were in various supporting
roles throughout Vietnam. In nearly 1,000 days of combat, artillery
progress and accomplishments contributed significantly to the suc­
cess of the U.S. tactical mission. Artillerymen adapted to the unique
situation posed in Vietnam. The length of time between the Ko­
rean War and the start of combat operations in Vietnam had de­
prived the Army of a high level of combat experienced personnel.
Combat experience was the exception rather than the rule at com­
pany and battalion levels in all branches. Further, the nature of the
Vietnam war negated much of the conventional war experience pos­
sessed by those who had previously been in combat. To overcome
this inexperience and unfamiliarity with counterguerrilla opera­

tions, the field artilleryman needed to be more creative, innovative,

and flexible than ever before. Artillerymen fulfilled this need with
the utmost professionalism.
From the first few informal reports from the field in 1965
through the volumes of operational reports and lessons learned that
became formalized by 1967, the message was clear: the basic doc­
trine, tactics, and techniques that had been followed for years by
artillerymen were still valid, but some modifications of the manner
in which they were applied were necessary. These modifications
initially resulted in problems, which were listed and discussed to
determine expeditiously the best and most feasible solutions. Ex­
periences were shared with artillerymen worldwide to insure
against repetition of the same mistakes and to better provide ade­
quate fire support.
Probably no artilleryman of any grade or position proved more
flexible in the face of adversity than the forward observer. Every
maneuver company was assigned a field artillery forward observer
who traveled with the company and called for and adjusted support­
ing fires. The "eyes and ears of the artillery," as he is often called,
the forward observer in Vietnam faced many disadvantages in the
early months of the war. A lieutenant by table of organization and
equipment, the observer was often a young noncommissioned officer
or enlisted soldier, in his first combat tour, and trained in the prin­
ciples of conventional war. In Vietnam he encountered thick forest
and jungle and, more often than not, lack of visibility of the target
area. This often necessitated the adjustment of artillery by sound,
something he was not trained to do. The nature of operations in
Vietnam often resulted in infantry platoons and squads operating
semi-independently, away from the company command post. Con­
trol of the platoons and squads kept company commanders so busy
that the forward observer's responsibilities often included main­
taining accurate and current locations of the company and subor­
dinate elements. This was a significant problem, compounded by
the fact that vegetation often obscured prominent terrain features
and visible reference points. The 1st Cavalry Division reported in
1965 that their forward observers, hampered by dense jungle, had
improvised a rope and sling device with which to climb trees in
order to observe artillery fire. Common methods of resolving map
reading problems were the "pace and count" method of land navi­
gation and the firing of a spotting round of smoke or white phos­
phorus, which was detonated in the air above a location that had
been predetermined by the fire direction center and passed to the
forward observer. In a series of taped interviews with company
commanders who had served in Vietnam, the general consensus was


:hat map reading and responsibilities for maintaining unit loca­

ions were best left in the hands of the artillery forward observer.
Another problem area for the observer was the employment of
lerial rocket artillery, which was relatively new. The forward ob­
.erver had received little if any training in aerial rocket artillery
idjustment. He had to gain confidence in the system, but once that
ivas accomplished, aerial rocket artillery inevitably became his
'trump card."
Artillery commanders in Vietnam were quick to recognize the
leed for well-trained, able observers. In 1965, a large proportion of
'combat notes" and reports from the field emphasized the impor­
:ance of the forward observer section to the successful accomplish­
ment of the fire support mission. Initial reports from the 173d
\irborne Brigade stressed the need for cross-training of personnel
in these sections. The reconnaissance sergeant and the radiotele-
Dhone operator often had to assume fire-support responsibilities


form hunter-killer team.

and some were not qualified to do so. In addition, it was believed

that forward observers were not being properly utilized as a source
of intelligence. It was concluded that more emphasis should be
given to correcting these shortcomings during training in the conti­
nental United States.
Firing batteries throughout Vietnam experienced several com­
mon problems. Tables of organization and equipment prescribed
personnel levels and authorizations that made 24-hour operation a
severe strain on personnel. Modification of tables was necessary to
permit round-the-clock operations, particularly in the fire direc­
tion center. Large areas of operation and great distances between
battalions and their batteries put the emphasis on the battery cen­
ter as the primary source of firing data. Often the battalion fire
direction control mission became more a matter of control than di­
rection. Too, mountainous terrain often hampered communications
and thus the battery center had to check its own firing data. The
frequent splitting of batteries meant that a battery had constantly
to maintain the personnel and equipment to establish and maintain
several fire direction centers. Another challenge for the field artil­
leryman was his new-found mobility resulting from the extensive

use of the helicopter. Few individual replacements had much if

any training in airmobility, yet all towed artillery units had to be
ready to move on a moment's notice. The versatility of the artil­
leryman offset his lack of experience. Units that had never dis­
placed by air learned, and learned quickly. Occasionally peacetime
habits, both good and bad, cropped up in Vietnam. One such habit,
a negative one but easily correctable, was cited by the 23d Artillery
Group. Delays in firing often occurred in firing sections with new
section chiefs. The explanation was that these chiefs, with con­
siderable peacetime experience, were in the habit of waiting for
the safety officer to check firing data. A further problem was that
firing batteries equipped with the M107-mm. gun were hampered
by the weapon's extremely short tube life. After firing 300 full
charge rounds, it was necessary to replace the tube, a six-hour pro­
cedure. The artillery lived with this problem until a new tube with
four times the tube life was developed. Stateside production of the
tubes caught up with Vietnam demands in early 1968. In addition,
the field time required to change tubes was reduced to two hours,
principally the result of the efforts of an enterprising artilleryman
who fabricated an adapter which prevented the nitrogen in the
weapon's equilibrators from escaping. Previously, equilibrators
were permitted to empty during tube change and additional time
was required to replenish the lost nitrogen.
Initially, many combat experiences, creative ideas, and new tac­
tics and techniques were peculiar to particular units or areas of
Vietnam and were passed informally by word of mouth. To pre­
vent disjointed concepts and ideas and to standardize procedures,
information pertinent to artillery procedures was given wide dis­
semination. The best source was lessons learned reports, and infor­
mation from them was distributed throughout Vietnam as well as
up through channels, ultimately to be used in training by units and
service schools in the United States.
To standardize procedures in Vietnam and to reinforce written
standing operating procedures, training schools were established at
division artillery, artillery group, and field force artillery levels to
train newly assigned personnel in artillery procedures and tech­
niques peculiar to Vietnam or to the particular area or unit to which
they would be assigned. The emphasis was primarily on forward
observer and fire direction center procedures and techniques. These
schools ranged in duration from three days to a week and were
staffed and equipped from units already in Vietnam. Typical of this
training was a six-day course in fire direction conducted by I Field
Force Artillery for all its newly assigned fire direction officers. The
41st Artillery Group conducted a five-day orientation course for

newly assigned forward observers. Similar schools were conducted

by II Field Force Artillery and its subordinate units.
To improve co-ordination and liaison between U.S. forces and
other Free World Military Assistance Forces units, many U.S. units
conducted artillery orientation schools for allied personnel. The
9th Infantry Division conducted such a school in 1967 in prepara­
tion for a joint U.S. and Thai operation. To facilitate artillery
co-ordination in the II Corps area, the 41st Artillery Group con­
ducted fire support training for South Vietnamese Army personnel.
When the language barrier was overcome, the result of such train­
ing was a marked improvement in the speed and quality of
artillery support.
The ultimate in training experiences was on-the-job training
(OJT) in a unit engaged in actual combat operations. As time pro­
gressed and personnel were "infused" between units to prevent
large rotational humps, individual training became possible. To in­
sure adherence to basic artillery doctrine and safety procedures and
to allow for standardization of artillery techniques, artillery staffs
at group and division levels established various means of testing the
proficiency of subordinate units. The most common technique was
the formation of a team which visited a subordinate unit to render
assistance and evaluate the artillery procedures used. The 23d Ar­
tillery Group conducted unannounced proficiency tests (UPT) of
the basic artillery fundamentals and principles in their subordinate
units. Requirements consisted of firing a registration mission, a
time-on-target mission, and two adjust fire missions. The objective
of such tests was to evaluate and assist, not to harass, and the prac­
tice proved quite successful.
As lessons learned reached the continental United States, every
effort was made to ease the training burden of combat units in
Vietnam and to incorporate Vietnam-related procedures and les­
sons learned into instruction and training.
At the Field Artillery School (then the United States Army Ar­
tillery and Missile School) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the emphasis was
on instruction and training geared to meet the artillery require­
ments in Vietnam. The Field Artillery School dispatched liaison
teams to Vietnam "to determine the actions required to improve
the products of the [Artillery] Training Center and the Artillery
School at Fort Sill for officers, enlisted men and deployable units."
These visits included one in September of 1967 by Major General
Charles P. Brown, Fort Sill commander and Artillery~School com­
mandant. Extensive interviews at all levels of artillery command
were conducted during these visits and a list of matters requiring
the attention of the Artillery School was made. Essentially, the ba­



sic message gleaned from these trips was that although the over-all
state of training of artillery personnel assigned to Vietnam was ex­
cellent, increased Vietnam-oriented training was required. Specifi­
cally, it was determined that increased emphasis was necessary in
6,400-mil fire direction center procedures; counterguerrilla recon­
naissance, selection, and occupation of position training; and fire
support co-ordination responsibilities at all levels, particularly those
of the artillery liaison officer.
By mid-1967, the Artillery School had begun to make significant
progress in implementing changes in instructional programs to sat­
isfy Vietnam requirements. A field artillery officer's Vietnam orien­
tation course (FAOVOC) was instituted in July 1967. Four to five
weeks long, the course concentrated solely on tactics and techniques
used in Vietnam. In fiscal year 1968, 239 officers completed the
course; in fiscal year 1969, over 1,000. The course was offered in
addition to the officer basic schooling and was designed better to
prepare officers for Vietnam service. The officer basic course was in­
creased from 9 to 12 weeks, and the Artillery Officer Candidate
School enrollment increased from 3,000 in fiscal year 1966 to 9,600

infiscalyear 1967. Increased emphasis on Vietnam training for non­

commissioned and enlisted students resulted in short (2-3 week)
section chief courses and a noncommissioned officer candidate
course designed to emphasize skill development in artillery proce­
dures. Fire direction center training stressed 6,400-mil fire direc­
tion procedures, including chart preparation and wind cards. On
the basis of information received in Vietnam during liaison visits,
additional training on the field artillery digital computer (FADAC)
was implemented. The Tactics and Combined Arms Department
constructed two Vietnam-type artillery fire bases for instruction in
battery defense, and field exercises included a counterguerrilla
phase in the scenario as students participating in training for recon­
naissance, selection, and occupation of position began occupying
star-shaped and circular battery positions in addition to conven­
tional linear positions. Throughout the Field Artillery School, every
attempt was made to prepare the field artilleryman for combat duty
in Vietnam.
The field artillery made genuine progress after its arrival in Viet­
nam in 1965. The quality of fire support was ever increasing as the
artillery played a vital role in operations ranging from JUNCTION
CITY, the largest combined operation to date, to small-unit actions
such as those in the remote outposts of Landing Zone BIRD and Soui
Cat. In over two and a half years of combat, the artillerymen had
trained hard, fought hard, and shared experiences with personnel
of other branches. As the 1968 Tet holiday season neared and the
enemy made final plans for attack, seasoned artillerymen manned
positions in 54 field artillery battalions scattered throughout Viet­

The Hot War (1968-October 1969)

The Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army in late 1967
launched several costly attacks. On 29 October the Viet Cong at­
tacked the South Vietnamese district capital of Loc Ninh, ran up
theflagof the National Liberation Front, and tried to hold the city.
United States and South Vietnamese forces responded with massive
air and artillery bombardment, but the enemy continued to press
the attack despite heavy losses. Similarly, in early November four
North Vietnamese Army regiments fought U.S. and South Viet­
namese troops near Dak To. The U.S. command deployed the
equivalent of a full division from the heavily populated coastal
lowlands to the battle area. Again, as at Loc Ninh, the enemy
sustained heavy casualties. A captured enemy document listed four
objectives for the 1967 campaigns. These included encouraging
units to improve, in combat, the technique of concentrated attacks
to annihilate relatively large enemy units and effecting close co­
ordination with various battle areas throughout South Vietnam to
achieve timely unity. The activity of late 1967 was a prelude to Tet
1968. A high-level prisoner later revealed that the assault on Loc
Ninh had been ordered to test mass formations and previously in­
experienced troops in preparation for the 1968 offensive.
Tet, the festival of the Asian lunar new year, usually was the
occasion for a formal cease-fire. In 1968, however, the North Viet­
namese Army and the Viet Cong, using reserve forces and the larger
supporting weapons, launched a series of massive co-ordinated at­
tacks in what became known as the Tet offensive. As revealed by
captured enemy sources, the strategy for the offensive was based on
the belief that the war would culminate in 1968 and that large-scale
continuous attacks, in conjunction with a general uprising of the
people, would precipitate the withdrawal from Vietnam of U.S.
forces and the collapse of the South Vietnamese government, which
would then be forced to accept a coalition government dominated
by the National Liberation Front.

Tet 1968
Political and military targets of the Tet offensive included pro­

vincial and district capitals, the government in Saigon and its agen­
cies such as the Regional Development Cadres and the National
Police, and the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces. The enemy be­
lieved that if widespread attacks were successful, the inability of the
government to protect the people would become obvious and the
credibility of that government would be undermined. Installations
and facilities that were essential to the conduct of the war and that
were difficult to defend became tactical targets. (Map 10) In prep­
aration for the Tet offensive, the enemy went to unprecedented
lengths to assemble supplies and weapons and to infiltrate the cities.
In Saigon, funeral processions concealed the movement of arms and
ammunition. In Hue and Saigon, enemy troops in civilian dress
escaped detection. In provincial centers such as Quang Tri, Da
Nang, Nha Trang, Quin Nhon, Kontum city, Ban Me Thuot, My
Tho, Can Tho, and Ben Tri, the enemy infiltrated in strength.
The offensive began at 0015 on 30 January at Nha Trang. The
same night eleven other cities in I and II Corps zones, as well as
several military installations and airfields, came under attack.
Enemy documents later revealed that these attacks were premature;
the forces operating in these areas had not received the order for a
one-day postponement of the offensive. The main attack took place
on the following night, 30-31 January, when enemy forces hit eigh­
teen cities throughout the country. The allies cleared most of the
cities within hours. However, in a few cities, particularly Saigon
and Hue, the fighting continued for days.
The attack on Hue commenced at 0340 on 31 January. (Map 11)
Elements of the 800th, 802d, and 806th Battalions, 6th North Viet­
namese Army Regiment, and the 804th Battalion, 4th North Viet­
namese Army Regiment, initiated a rocket, mortar, and ground
assault on the city. Forces of the 4th Regiment soon occupied all of
southern Hue except the Military Assistance Command compound.
Meanwhile, to the north, two battalions of the 6th Regiment
moved into the citadel, an old French fortress near the center of the
city. By morning the flag of the National Liberation Front had been
mounted on the flag pole of the citadel and the enemy controlled
all of the fortress but the South Vietnamese Army 1st Division head­
The allies acted immediately to relieve the pressure on the Mil­
itary Assistance Command and South Vietnamese Army com­
pounds. While U.S. and Vietnamese marines along with the 1st
Division bore down on the enemy forces to the south and within the
city itself, the 3d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, sealed off Hue to
the north and west. Each of the maneuver forces fought exception­
ally well, but the actions of the 3d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division,

O 50 100 MILES


MAP 10



30-31 January 1968

^ = ^ ^ ~ Axis of attack

All positions approximate


MAP 11

were the most significant from a fire support aspect. The 3d Brigade
blocking force was comprised of the 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry, and
the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry. The 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 3d
Brigade, was committed to base camp defense and did not join the
rest of the brigade until 19 February. On that day the 2d Battalion,
501st Airborne, of the 101st Airborne Division, newly arrived from
III Corps, also joined the 3d Brigade. The 3d Brigade direct sup­
port battalion, the 1st Battalion, 21st Artillery, established a fire
support base at a South Vietnamese Army compound northwest of
On 3 February the 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry, detected a large
North Vietnamese force positioned near Que Chu, west of Hue.



24-25 February 1968

All positions approximate



MAP 12
The battalion, supported by indirect artillery fire, aerial rocket ar­
tillery, and helicopter gunships, attacked the well-fortified enemy
position. By 5 February the 2d Battalion controlled the high ground
in the Que Chu area overlooking the surrounding plains and, with
precise artillery fire, was able virtually to stop all enemy movement.
Beginning on 9 February, while the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry,
maintained the blocking position, the 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry,
entered the village of Bon Tri to the south of Que Chu and en­
countered a well-dug-in regimental-size enemy complex. For three
days U.S. artillery, air strikes, and naval gunfire pummeled the
positions. On 12 February the 2d Battalion had to break contact
without any substantial change in the situation. The 5th Battalion
took over the assault, but it too was unable to dislodge the enemy.

It remained for the 2d Battalion again to pick up the assault on 21

February and finally secure the village.
Meanwhile the remainder of the 3d Brigade, joined by the 1st
Battalion, 7th Cavalry, and the 2d Battalion, 501st Airborne, had
begun its move toward Hue from the northwest. On the morning of
21 February the brigade crashed into a strong enemy defensive
position in the Ti T i woods, approximately five kilometers north­
west of the city. Tube artillery, along with naval gunfire and aerial
rocket artillery, enabled the brigade to breach the enemy positions.
The advance of the 3d Brigade toward Hue necessitated close
fire support co-ordination. Elements of the 1st Battalion, 30th Ar­
tillery (155-mm.), and 1st Battalion, 83d Artillery (8-inch, self-
propelled), had been situated at Landing Zone NOLE since 20
February. From that position these elements had been supporting
the Vietnamese and Marine units in and around Hue. With the
approach of the 3d Brigade, co-ordination requirements became
more exacting to avoid shelling refugees and friendly forces. On 21
February the South Vietnamese 1st Division commander requested
a field artillery liaison party from the 1st Cavalry Division to as­
sist in the co-ordination of fire support. The liaison party, which was
dispatched the next morning, contributed to the success of the op­
At 0730 on 24 February, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces
breached the southwest wall of the citadel and met only light resis­
tance. An intense artillery preparation the night before had killed
161 enemy. The citadel secured, the battle of Hue was officially
over. (Map 12) The National Liberation Front flag which had
flown from the citadel tower since 1 February came down. The re­
capture of Hue had involved four U.S. Army battalions, three U.S.
Marine Corps battalions, and eleven South Vietnamese battalions.
Ten Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army battalions had been
committed in an attempt to hold the city.
Colonel Richard M. Winfield, Jr., 1st Cavalry Division Artillery
commander, in summarizing the actions and problems of the artil­
lery, emphasized the conventional quality of the operation and
concluded with a description of clearance activities and the conse­
In the battle for Hue, the brigade was operating four battalions in
the most conventional type of conflict that this division had ever been
faced with. The brigade had their normal supporting artillery—three
direct support batteries, a medium battery, and, during the latter periods
of the attack, an 8-inch battery. Those units, from the 3d to the 26th of
February, fired 52,000 rounds. In addition, 7,670 rounds of 5-inch to
8-inch naval ammunition, and 600 tons of Air Force-delivered munitions
were expended in the area. In the last stages of the operation, the di­
vision commander and I went into Hue and worked with the com­
manding officer of the 1st ARVN forces. We took whoever was needed
for fire control and clearance so that we wouldn't have any major acci­
dents against US Army, ARVN, or Marine unit or civilian, who were
all converging on Hue. This required tight and rigid fire control, which
was exercised by both the GS battalion commanders, by myself, and by
the senior officer whom I had placed in Hue to control those fires. We
had 11 fire support agencies in Hue. Now, this of course, had an effect
on our infantry units, which are used to operating when they want to
shoot—they call for fire and the fire is there. When we have all these
clearance requirements and you have to have minimum safe distances
all around you, the fire becomes slow because of the clearance and be­
comes restricted both in the caliber of weapons and in the number of
rounds you can fire. I would say that the fire support was adequate. It
was tough to get, but it was certainly adequate.
U.S. plans in the III Corps Tactical Zone for early 1968 en­
visioned only fourteen allied battalions remaining within a 29-mile
radius of Saigon. Since early December 1967, defense of the capital
itself had been the responsibility of the South Vietnamese com­
mand. The 5th Ranger Group, with a U.S. 105-mm. howitzer
battalion (2d Battalion, 13th Artillery) in direct support, was re­
sponsible for providing the necessary security. U.S. forces thus re­
leased from the defense of Saigon were incorporated into plans for
assaults on enemy base camps in the Cambodian border region.
Thirty-nine battalions were to operate against these camps.
As the U.S. plans were set in motion, however, General Weyand,
commanding II Field Force, became concerned over the results.
Enemy resistance along the Cambodian border was weak. This
weakness, coupled with the large volume of enemy radio transmis­
sions near Saigon, convinced him of the necessity for redeployment.
He conveyed his conclusions to General Westmoreland. The result
was a shifting of forces. By the time of the Tet attacks in the III
Corps area, twenty-seven U.S. maneuver battalions were in the cap­
ital area and the remaining twenty-five outside.
The operational plan of the enemy in the III Corps Tactical
Zone included:
1. Seizing the Bien Hoa-Long Binh complex. Key targets: Bien
Hoa Air Base, II Field Force headquarters, III Corps headquarters,
prisoner-of-war camp between Bien Hoa and Long Binh, Long
Binh ammunition storage area.
2. Attacking targets in the Hoc Mon area northwest of Saigon
while blocking allied reaction by interdicting Route 1 between
Saigon and Cu Chi; maintaining readiness to exploit successes in the
northern Saigon area.
3. Blocking any attempted reaction by the U.S. 25th Infantry
Division from the Cu Chi-Dau Tieng region.


Song Be

Due Phong_
Quon Loi
o °Bunard
An Loc
,Dau Tieng o LONG KHANH
Lai Khe° Vinh
Bien Hoa Xuan Loc BINH
Cu Chi

Due LongGiao
Hoa° Lai
_ ^
Ham Tam
Nha Be°
Tan An DINH Ba Ria


MAP 13

4. Attacking district and government installations in Thu Due

and destroying the Newport bridge over the Saigon River between
Saigon and Long Binh.
5. Containing the 1st Infantry Division in the Lai Khe area
and cutting off Highway 13 at An Loc.
6. Seizing Tan Son Nhut Air Base and possibly the adjacent
vice-presidential palace; taking over the presidential palace along
with the U.S. and Philippine embassies; holding or destroying in­
stallations of the government of Vietnam such as the National Po­
lice stations and power plants. Success here would cause the govern­
ment and the United States to lose face and would propel a move to
the conference table, where the National Liberation Front would
negotiate from a position of strength.
7. Controlling Cu Chi, Due Hoa (including the South Viet­

namese 25th Division headquarters), Ba Ria, Xuan Loc (18th Divi­

sion headquarters), My Tho, Ben Tre, and Phu Loi-Phu Chang.
In the III Corps area the Tet offensive began at 0300 on 31
January in the Long Binh-Bien Hoa complex with a rocket and
mortar attack on headquarters of the 199th Infantry Brigade and
II Field Force. (Map 13) By 0321 Saigon and Tan Son Nhut were
also receiving heavy fire. In order to control combat units in the
Capital Military District (Gia Dinh Province), General Weyand
ordered his deputy commander, Major General Keith Ware, and a
small staff to Saigon to take operational control of all U.S. units.
Task Force WARE, the operational headquarters, situated at Capital
Military District headquarters, was operational by 1100 that same
day and remained so until 18 February.
At the outset of the Tet offensive, only one U.S. infantry battal­
ion and four 105-mm. howitzer batteries operated in Gia Dinh Prov­
ince. Three of these batteries were in direct support of the South
Vietnamese 5th Ranger Group. General Westmoreland, for politi­
cal and psychological reasons, had refrained from maintaining U.S.
maneuver units in Saigon and several other large cities. Once the
Tet attacks began and American maneuver battalions arrived in the
Capital Military District, division and field force artillery units re­
located and supported the relief of the district.
Fire support for American units in the Capital Military District,
particularly in Saigon, posed serious problems for the artillery. Nu­
merous homes and shops and heavy concentrations of people within
the city limited the area where artillery could be fired. When ar­
tillery could be employed, it was slow to respond because of difficul­
ties in obtaining clearance to fire. Vietnamese military units in the
city and the city government had not been placed under a single
control headquarters. As a result, no centralized clearance activity
was established. Artillery liaison officers were required to obtain
clearance locally from the national police station in their area of
operations. The situation was corrected in June 1968 when the
Army of the Republic of Vietnam established a single military
governor in the Capital Military District. Artillery support was fur­
ther limited in Saigon because buildings and other structures re­
stricted the view of forward observers. Gunships and tactical air
proved more adept at providing support because the pilots had a
better view of the target area. As a result specific enemy locations
could be pinpointed and damage held to a minimum. For these
reasons most of the major field artillery engagements in the Capital
Military District during the Tet offensive and counteroffensive oc­
curred in the outer edges of Saigon and in other areas of the zone.
Particularly impressive during Tet was the fire support pro­

vided to the 1st Infantry Division in III Corps Tactical Zone. The
division killed over 1,000 enemy troops. The Big Red One esti­
mated that artillery and air strikes accounted for 70 percent of
these enemy losses. The volume of field artillery fire increased
substantially during the Tet offensive. The 1st Infantry Division
recorded the following:

Caliber Daily Average Prior to Tet Daily Average During Tet

105-mm 2,376 rounds 5,616 rounds

155-mm 925 1,459
8-inch 200 235
4.2-inch 1,100 1,570
Total 4,601 8,880

The most significant engagement during Tet for units of the 1st
Infantry Division Artillery and the 23d Artillery Group began on 1
February. The division had shifted its artillery south along High­
way 13 in order to meet increased enemy activity between Lai Khe
and Saigon. On the morning of 1 February, elements of the divi­
sion engaged units of the 273d Viet Cong Regiment at An My,
approximately 4,000 meters north of Phu Loi. The artillery began
by providing blocking fires. Then at 1330 the artillery placed de­
structivefiresupon enemy forces entrenched in the village. Through­
out the day 3,493 rounds hit the northern half of the village and
caused approximately 20 secondary explosions. A survey of the area
before dark confirmed 201 enemy killed and evidence supporting
estimates of more than twice that number. Once darkness set in,
the artillery again provided blocking fires. The next morning, the
1st Infantry Division found the remainder of the 273d Regiment
still entrenched in An My. The action resumed at 1030 with the
artillery continuing to provide blocking fires. When rounds were
fired on the village, numerous secondary explosions again resulted.
After several hours of bombardment, friendly elements swept and
secured An My and found 123 Viet Cong killed. Prisoner reports
later confirmed the import of the encounter. The 273d Regiment
was moving south when it met the 1st Infantry Division at An My;
the ensuing battle rendered the 273d ineffective before it could
reach its assigned objective and contribute to the Tet offensive.
The performance of the field artillery in III Corps Tactical
Zone during Tet caused General Weyand to observe that the field
artillery was instrumental in blunting or defeating many of the
assaults in the zone: "Timely response, especially in the moments of

fluid uncertainty during the initial phase of the attacks, and in

spite of clearance handicaps, contributed to the successes of the in­
fantry and armored units."
Numerous smaller but significant field artillery actions occurred
throughout Vietnam during Tet. For example, the 25th Infantry
Division was plagued by enemy bunkers near the highway between
Cu Chi and Saigon. Fires from the bunkers prevented free move­
ment between the two locations. Numerous attempts to reduce the
bunkers with artillery, air strikes, and infantry assaults were un­
successful. An 8-inch howitzer delivering assault fire finally elimi­
nated the bunkers. Also noteworthy were the actions of units of the
54th Artillery Group which prevented the collapse of the Xuan Loc
base camp. On 2 February Xuan Loc came under heavy attack. The
quick and devastating fire of Battery C, 1st Battalion, 83d Artillery,
saved the post. Battery C fired thirty-five 8-inch rounds and killed
80 of the attackers. During the period 1-18 February similar mis­
sions supported the defense of Xuan Loc. The 2d Battalion, 40th
Artillery, the direct support battalion of the 199th Light Infantry
Brigade, was one of the first artillery units to respond to enemy
attacks in III Corps. An observer detected the enemy launching
rockets on II Field Force headquarters and shifted fire onto the
launching sites. Several of the firing points were neutralized before
the enemy had fired all his rounds. The enemy suffered more than
50 killed.
In IV Corps Tactical Zone the enemy offensive included attacks
against My Tho and Vinh Long. On 31 January 1968, the Mobile
Riverine Force was placed under operational control of the senior
adviser in IV Corps. The riverine force initially was moved to the
vicinity of My Tho, and two of its battalions conducted a three-day
operation north of the My Tho River in response to a multibattal­
ion Viet Cong attack on the provincial capital. Then, on 4 February,
the riverine force moved to the provincial capital of Vinh Long and
engaged three enemy battalions that were trying to seize the city.
The 3d Battalion, 34th Artillery (105-mm., towed), was in direct
support of the Mobile Riverine Brigade. One battery was equipped
with airmobile firing platforms and two batteries were mounted on
barges. The artillery battalion effectively delivered 8,158 rounds in
support of the My Tho campaign. At one point a barge-mounted
battery was required to make an airmobile deployment. The bat­
tery was provided a 14-ton jeep and a 3^-ton trailer for a fire direc­
tion center. The barges were beached and the pickup was made
directly from them. This type of movement opened possibilities for
deeper penetration into the Mekong Delta.
Finally, in I Corps area on 12 February 1968, Battery C, 1st

Battalion, 40th Artillery (105-mm.), while in support of a South

Vietnamese unit, became the first U.S. Army artillery unit to fire
improved conventional munitions in combat. The target was 40-50
North Vietnamese troops in the open. The battery fired 54 rounds
of the new ammunition, resulting in 14 enemy killed. The round
was a controlled, fragmentation-type ammunition similar to the Air
Force cluster bomb unit. FIRE CRACKER became the code word used
when a forward observer wanted improved conventional munitions.

Khe Sanh
The 66-day battle of Khe Sanh, which began in January 1968,
became a classic defensive operation for U.S. forces. It tested Ameri­
can concepts of defense and demonstrated that good fire support
could effectively neutralize a superior force.
Khe Sanh sits atop a plateau in the shadow of the Dang Tri
Mountains and overlooks a tributary of the Quang Tri River. Sur­
rounding it on all sides are hills from which the North Vietnamese
could shell the base. If controlled by the Marines, however, the hills
would form a ring of protection for the base and afford good van­
tage points for detecting enemy movement. American involvement
at Khe Sanh had begun in 1962, when Special Forces elements
established a Civilian Irregular Defense Group camp at the site that
was later known as the Khe Sanh combat base. Its purpose was to
counter enemy infiltration through the area and provide a base for
surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations in the western
part of northern I Corps. Marine units occupied the base in late
1966 and the Special Forces moved southwest to the village of Lang
Between late 1966 and late 1967, activity around the base fluc­
tuated from heavy contact to none at all. Then in December 1967 a
surge of enemy activity began. Reconnaissance teams reported large
groups of North Vietnamese moving into the area. The movement
in itself was not irregular, but now the forces were staying, not
passing through. The enemy was building up men and equipment
in preparation for a siege. The enemy initiated major offensive
action around Khe Sanh early in January 1968, when he shifted his
emphasis from reconnaissance and harassment to actual probes of
friendly positions.
On the night of 2 January an outpost at the western end of the
base reported six unidentified figures walking around outside the
wire. When challenged, they made no reply and were taken under
fire. Five of the six were killed. Later investigation disclosed that
the dead included a North Vietnamese regimental commander and

N 0S~T^H V I E T N A M
r* C


not to scale

MAP 14

his operations and communications officers. The commitment of

these key men to such a dangerous reconnaissance mission was a
clear indication that something big was about to happen. (Maps 14
and 15)
In the predawn of 21 January, the enemy began his anticipated
move against Khe Sanh. Just after midnight rockets and artillery
shells began impacting on Hill 861 to the northwest of the city. A
full-scale ground attack followed, only to be repulsed after several
hours of fighting. At 0530 another intense barrage of 82-mm. shells
and 122-mm. rockets hit Khe Sanh. Damage was substantial—a
major ammunition dump and a fuel storage area were destroyed.
When news of the attack reached the United States, many ques­
tioned the feasibility of defending Khe Sanh. The base was isolated
and, with Route 9 interdicted, would have to be resupplied by air.
Fearing that Khe Sanh would become an American Dien Bien Phu,
critics favored a pullout.
The problem, therefore, was not merely how to defend the
base but whether the base should be defended at all. General West­
moreland and General Cushman, commander of III Marine Am­


not to scale

MAP 15

phibious Force, decided to defend Khe Sanh. The base and adjacent
outposts commanded the plateau and the main avenue of approach
into eastern Quang Tri Province. Although these installations did
not stop infiltration, they blocked motorized supply from the west.
Another advantage to holding the base was the possibility of en­
gaging and destroying a heretofore elusive foe. At Khe Sanh, the
enemy showed no desire to hit and run but rather chose to stand
and fight. The marines could fix him in position around the base
while air and artillery barrages closed in. Finally, two crack North
Vietnamese divisions, which might otherwise have participated in
attacks in other areas of South Vietnam, were tied down by one
reinforced Marine regiment. The decision made, all that remained
was to complete the buildup of men and materiel required to hold
the base.
Air power and artillery played an important role at Khe Sanh
and were given the highest priority. The Khe Sanh defenders had
three batteries of 105-mm. howitzers, one battery of 4.2-inch mor­
tars, and one battery of 155-mm. howitzers; all five batteries were
Marine artillery. In addition, they were supported by four batter­
ies of Army 175-mm. guns, one at the "Rockpile," north of the base,

and three at Camp Carroll, to the east. These artillery pieces, 46 in

all, were supplemented by 90-mm. tank guns, 106-mm. recoilless
rifles, and tactical air support. The fire support co-ordination
center, the 1st Battalion, 13th Marines (Artillery), located at Khe
Sanh, controlled all supporting arms fire. Once the fighting began,
the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lownds, said that
the side which kept its artillery intact would win the battle. Only
three American artillery pieces were destroyed during the entire
Since the enemy maneuvered mainly under cover of darkness,
the Marine and Army batteries were most active during these
hours. Preplanned artillery fires included combined time-on-target
fires from nine batteries, separate battalion time-on-target mis­
sions, battery multiple-volley individual missions, and battery ha­
rassment and interdiction missions. Fire support co-ordination
progressed to the point that artillery was seldom check fired while
tactical aircraft were operating in the area. Throughout the battle
158,981 rounds of various calibers of artillery were directed against
enemy locations around the base.
During the siege, air-delivered fire support reached unprece­
dented levels. A daily average of 45 B-52 sorties and 300 tactical air
sorties struck targets near the base. Eighteen hundred tons of ord­
nance a day laid waste wide swaths of jungle terrain and caused
hundreds of secondary explosions. In seventy days of air opera­
tion, 96,000 tons of bombs, nearly twice what the Army Air Corps
delivered in the Pacific during 1942 and 1943, pulverized the battle
In addition to volume, reaction time was a key factor. Relatively
easy clearance procedures meant immediate response—unless
friendly aircraft were in the target area—regardless of the weather.
Artillery rounds were usually on the target area within forty sec­
onds after the call for fire. This instant artillery impaired enemy
movements within the tactical area of responsibility and helped to
break up numerous attacks.
Protective fires were carefully planned in advance. The fires of
the artillery batteries planned by the fire support co-ordination cen­
ter prevented the enemy assault forces from reaching the perimeter
wire. Because the North Vietnamese usually attacked with their
battalions in column, the center also planned fires to isolate the
assault elements from the reserves. When the enemy launched his
attack, the, center placed a three-sided artillery box around the lead
enemy battalion. Three batteries of the 1st Battalion, 13th Marines,
executed this mission. The fourth battery then closed the remain­
ing side, which faced the friendly positions, with a barrage that


e AF


MARINE 105mm FIRES .{j&h

Diagram 8. Artillery box.


rolled from one end of the box to the other much like a piston
within a cylinder. The enemy force in the box could neither escape
nor avoid the rolling barrage. Those North Vietnamese who spilled
out of the open end of the box came under the final protective fires
of the marines along the perimeter. At the same time, the fire sup­
port coordination center placed a secondary box around the North
Vietnamese backup units. The four U.S. Army 175-mm. batteries
were responsible for two sides, which were about 500 meters out­
side the primary box. On order, the gunners rolled their barrage in
toward the sides of the primary box and back out again. The third
side was sealed by continuous flights of aircraft under the control of
radar. Whenever B-52's were available or could be diverted in
time, arc light strikes saturated the approach routes to the battle
The manner in which the center co-ordinated its air and artil­
lery support was another critical element in the defense of Khe
Sanh. The mini arc light, devised by the assistant fire support co­
ordinator, was used against area targets. The mini arc light was
similar to a B-52 strike but could be organized and employed more
rapidly. When intelligence reports indicated that enemy units were
in a certain region, the fire support co-ordination center plotted a
500- by 1,000-meter block in the suspected area or across a likely
route of march. Then the center called two Intruder tactical air­
craft, each armed with twenty-eight 500-pound bombs, for a radar
bomb run. Meanwhile the batteries at Khe Sanh, Camp Carroll,
and the Rockpile were alerted for a fire mission. Thirty seconds
before the bombs were dropped, the 175-mm. batteries, concentrat­
ing their fires on one-half of the block, salvoed the first of approxi­
mately 60 rounds. When the aircraft rippled their loads down the
middle of the block, the Marine artillery batteries opened up on
the second half with about 200 155-mm., 105-mm., and 4.2-inch
rounds. The trajectory and flight times of all ordnance were com­
puted so that the bombs and initial artillery rounds hit at the same
instant. The saturation of the target area all but insured that any
enemy soldier caught in the zone during the bombardment would
be a casualty.
The micro arc light, developed and executed in the manner of
the mini arc, used less ordnance and covered a 500- by 500-meter
target block. The advantage of the micro arc light was that it could
be in effect within ten minutes whereas the mini arc light required
roughly 45 minutes. On an average night the fire support co­
ordination center executed three to four mini arc lights and six to
eight micro arc lights.
Artillery also functioned extensively in the direct fire role

against targets of opportunity. The three Marine 105-mm. howit­

zers on Hill 88IS demonstrated the effectiveness of this technique.
An alert machine gunner on the hill spotted a twenty-man column
of North Vietnamese slowly climbing Hill 758, due south of 881S.
They were carrying what appeared to be several mortar tubes. The
marines from a range of 1,200 meters managed to hit several of the
enemy. Instead of scattering, the remaining soldiers clustered
around their fallen comrades. The Marine gunners pushed aside
their parapet, depressed the tube for a downhill shot, and slammed
a dozen rounds into the midst of the tightly packed enemy group.
All 20 were killed.
While supporting air and artillery whittled away the strength of
the enemy, the defensive posture of the Khe Sanh combat base
grew more formidable. A full-scale ground attack would be costly.
However, the North Vietnamese forces remained determined and,
during the last ten days in February, launched several attacks. The
most significant attack occurred 29 February-1 March.
Early in the evening of 29 February, intelligence showed the
enemy moving toward the eastern perimeter of the camp. The fire
support co-ordination center called for saturation of the enemy
route of march. Massed artillery, tactical air, and mini and micro
arc lights were targeted in blocks to the east, southeast, and south.
B-52 strikes added to the carnage in the area. The enemy attempted
three ground assaults during the night at 2130, 2330, and 0315.
All were stopped short of the perimeter by intense ground fire and
air and artillery barrages. Later in the morning of 1 March, 78
enemy bodies were found, some still in their assault trenches, pep­
pered with holes from the artillery airbursts. Although the exact
number of enemy killed was never accurately determined, Monta­
gnard tribesmen inhabiting the surrounding hill reported rinding
200-500 bodies at a time stacked in rows along the trails and woods
leading to the base. The North Vietnamese forces apparently had
been caught while on the march and had been mangled by air raids
and piston-like artillery concentrations.
Beginning in mid-March, U.S. intelligence personnel noted an
exodus of major North Vietnamese units from the battle area. Most
of one division pulled back into Laos. As the enemy settled into a
wait-and-see strategy, heavy incoming fires and limited ground
probes nevertheless continued to plague the marines. But this wait­
ing game proved disastrous because clear skies dominated the area
for all but five days in March and the air strikes were stepped up
considerably. The observers had unrestricted visibility and were
able to ferret out artillery positions and bunker complexes. The
clear skies and accurate supporting fires formed a potent combina­

tion, and the number of confirmed enemy dead recorded in March

increased approximately 80 percent over the number recorded in
On 31 March, the 1st Cavalry Division took control of the 26th
Marine Regiment, signalling the start of PEGASUS, a fifteen-day air
assault operation that ended the battle of Khe Sanh. The 1st Cavalry
Division, along with the 1st Marine Regiment and the South
Vietnamese 3d Airborne Task Force, began a push from Ca Lu, lo­
cated east of Khe Sarih, td reopen Route 9 and relieve the pressure
on Khe Sanh. The siege, in effect, was over.
The basic plan of Operation PEGASUS called for the 1st Marine
Regiment, with two battalions, to attack west toward Khe Sanh
while the 1st Cavalry Division air assaulted onto the high ground on
either side of Route 9 and moved constantly west toward the base.
On D plus 1 and D plus 2, all elements would continue to attack
west toward Khe Sanh. Then on the following day the 2d Brigade
of the 1st Cavalry Division would land three battalions southeast of
Khe SanH and attack northwest. The 26th Marine Regiment, hold­
ing Khe Sanh, would attack south to secure Hill 471. The linkup
was planned for the end of the seventh day.
Fire support involved a multitude of units, requiring detailed
planning and co-ordination for the two phases of the operation—
reconnaissance and attack. The objective of the reconnaissance
phase was the destruction of the enemy antiaircraft resources be­
tween Ca Lu and Khe Sanh and the selection of landing zones for
use by the advancing airmobile assault force. The 1st Squadron, 9th
Air Cavalry, assumed this mission and was supported by an abun­
dance of air and artillery. Additional artillery was moved into the
area during the reconnaissance phase and automatically came under
the control of a forward division artillery fire direction center
located at Landing Zone STUD and manned by personnel of the 1st
Battalion, 30th Artillery. The additional artillery included one
Marine 4.2-inch mortar battery at Ca Lu and two 105-mm. batteries
(one Marine and one Army) at the Rockpile. On 25 March an
8-inch battery and a 105-mm. battery moved from Quang Tri to Ca
Lu and STUD, respectively. This move brought the total to 15
batteries available to support the 1st Squadron, 9th Air Cavalry, in
its reconnaissance. All batteries in the area began answering calls
for fire from the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, on D minus 6 and com­
menced attacking planned targets that night. Prior co-ordination
between the 3d Marine Division; the 108th Artillery Group; and
the 1st Battalion, 13th Marines (Artillery), insured that all avail­
able target information would be in the hands of the forward fire
direction center and that lateral communication would be estab­

lished. Throughout this phase, air and artillery fire destroyed en­
emy automatic weapons, mortars, and troop positions. The attack
phase consisted of the preparation of landing zones, suppression of
enemy fires, and on-call support of committed ground forces. For
this phase, ten 105-mm. howitzer batteries, four 155-mm. howitzer
batteries, one 8-inch howitzer battery, and one 4.2-inch mortar
battery joined the already overwhelming artillery force. Each cav­
alry battalion drew support from the battery with which it was
habitually associated. Each cavalry brigade had reinforcing fire
from a medium battery, and the 1st Marine Regiment could count
on support from two 105-mm. batteries, one 155-mm. battery, and
one 4.2-inch battery. The additional heavy battery with the mission
of general support of the 1st Air Cavalry Division moved from
Camp Evans to Landing Zone STUD. Thirty-one batteries supported
the relief of Khe Sanh—the largest array of artillery ever to support
a single operation in Vietnam to that time.
Counterbattery fire contributed significantly to the success of
Operation PEGASUS. For some time, North Vietnamese forces had
been able to shell Khe Sanh at will with 152-mm. and 130-mm.
artillery plus rockets and mortars positioned to the southwest and
northwest of the base. When the 1st Cavalry Division Artillery
came within range of the enemy guns, rapid and massive counter-
battery fires achieved superiority. From that point enemy artillery
ceased to be a serious deterrent to maneuver.
On 6 April at 1350, six days after Operation PEGASUS had begun,
the initial relief of Khe Sanh took place. A lead company of the
South Vietnamese 3d Airborne Task Force airlifted into Khe Sanh
and linked up with the South Vietnamese 37th Rangers. Two days
later the 2d Battalion, 7th Cavalry, had completed its sweep along
Route 9 and the official relief took place. The command post of the
3d Brigade, 1st Cavalry, airlifted to the base at 0800 and became
its new landlord. By the evening of 8 April, all elements of the
PEGASUS task force were in position on the Khe Sanh plateau. The
North Vietnamese 304th Division faced entrapment and destruc­
tion as a great vise closed about the enemy daily. American and
South Vietnamese units soon uncovered grisly evidence of how
badly the North Vietnamese had been beaten. They found hun­
dreds of North Vietnamese bodies in shallow graves and hundreds
more that lay where they had fallen. The allies destroyed or cap­
tured 557 individual weapons, 207 crew-served weapons, and two
antiaircraft pieces. In addition, they confiscated 17 vehicles ranging
from PT76 tanks to motor scooters, tons of ammunition and food,
and numerous radios and items of individual equipment. The
mountain of captured or abandoned enemy stores indicated either

that PEGASUS had caught the enemy flatfooted or that the remnants
of the enemy divisions had been unable to cart off their equipment
and supplies.
On the morning of 14 April, PEGASUS officially ended. The
operation was successful, Route 9 opened, the enemy routed, and
the base itself relieved. The North Vietnamese lost 1,304 killed
and 21 captured. The battle of Khe Sanh established that, with
sufficient fire power, an encircled position could be successfully
held and the enemy devastated.

A Shau
With the exception of the defense of Khe Sanh, post-Tet opera­
tions were similar to past counterguerrilla actions. The enemy,
badly shaken, again eluded massed allied forces. It was necessary to
hunt him in search and destroy operations conducted over large
land areas. The two largest of such operations took place in the III
Corps area and were known as QUYET TONG (Resolve T o Win) and
TOAN THANG (Complete Victory). Both took place in and around
Saigon and were aimed at destroying enemy forces that had par­
ticipated in the Tet attacks and were hiding in the area. Operation
TOAN THANG involved 42 U.S. and 37 Vietnamese maneuver bat­
talions and was the largest operation of the Vietnamese war. Artil­
lery support was provided by 81 batteries of U.S. artillery and all
Vietnamese artillery in the area.
Though not the largest, perhaps the most significant operation
of the period immediately following Tet was DELAWARE-LAM SON
216. This operation, in April 1968, took friendly forces into the A
Shau Valley, which had been controlled by the enemy since 1966.
The operation, like PEGASUS, was preceded by intelligence acquisi­
tion by the 9th Cavalry. Antiaircraft weapons were pinpointed and
destroyed by artillery, tactical air, and B-52 strikes. Two battalions
of the 3d Brigade air assaulted into the northern portion of the A
Shau Valley on 19 April. Hampered by extremely bad weather in
the objective area, the brigade did not close until 23 April. On 24
and 25 April the 1st Brigade was deployed in the central portion of
the valley. On 29 April, one battalion of the South Vietnamese 3d
Regiment was airlifted into the southern part of the valley and, by
the end of the month, most elements of the regiment were operat­
ing in the south central portion.
Artillery support for Operation DELAWARE-LAM SON 216 was
provided by two organic battalions of the 1st Cavalry Division
Artillery—the 2d Battalion, 19th Artillery, and the 1st Battalion,
21st Artillery. In addition, two batteries of the attached 1st Bat­


—— International boundary
Province boundary

Demilitarized Zone


MAP 16

talion, 30th Artillery (155, towed), reinforced the two direct sup­
port battalions, and the 2d Battalion, 20th Artillery (Aerial Field
Artillery), were in general support. Heavy artillery was provided
by six 175-mm. guns of the 1st Battalion, 83d Artillery, and 8th
Battalion, 4th Artillery. One battery of the 1st Battalion, 21st
Artillery, moved into the valley on 19 April 1968. Plans called for
moving another battery; however, hazardous flying conditions pre­
vented the move. No additional artillery was moved into the valley
until 23 April. By 29 April, however, all the supporting artillery
was in position. (Map 16)
Movement into the A Shau Valley was much slower than
planned because of enemy antiaircraft fire. The enemy air defense

was composed of relatively sophisticated weapons and fire distribu­

tion means, served by well-trained and disciplined crews, and an
effective communication system. Despite attacks by tactical aircraft
and artillery, the air defense weapons took a heavy toll of U.S.
aircraft on the first day of the operation.
The entire operation by the 1st Cavalry Division was conducted
by air. Positioning and supporting the artillery were hampered not
only by enemy antiaircraft fires but also by difficult weather condi­
tions. The operation was successful only because of feats of airman­
ship performed under instrument flight rule conditions by aviators
of the 11th Aviation Group, the 9th Cavalry Squadron, and the 2d
Battalion, 20th Artillery. Despite their efforts, however, careful
management of ammunition and supplies by all supporting artillery
units was necessary. On one occasion, water to swab the tubes of the
155-mm. howitzers was even in short supply.
The success of Operation DELAWARE can be measured princi­
pally by the amount of supplies and equipment captured, not by
the number of enemy killed:
Type Total
Small arms 2,342
Machine guns 36
Antiaircraft guns 13
Recoilless rifles 10
Mortars 2
Rocket Launchers 11
Flame throwers 31
Explosives 2,182 pounds
Plastic caps 5,994
Small arms ammunition 134,757 rounds
Recoilless rifle ammunition 796 rounds
Assorted ammunition 75,653 rounds
Mines 35
Grenades 2,486
Bulldozers 2
Wheeled vehicles 75
Radios 6
Tracked vehicles 3
Road stores 71,805 pounds

Later in the year, another operation was conducted into the A

Shau Valley. Intelligence indicated that the enemy had rebuilt his
defenses in the valley following the withdrawal of the 1st Air
Cavalry Division. The enemy was actively clearing and improving
access to and along Route 548 while moving large amounts of
supplies and replacements in Thua Thien Province and southern

I Corps Tactical Zone. Accordingly the 101st Airborne Division

was directed to conduct a follow-up operation into the valley and,
during the period 19-26 July 1968, built bases to support the
operation. Before D-day, eight batteries of field artillery were
moved into the bases. Each 105-mm. battery stockpiled 3,000 rounds
of ammunition; each 155-mm. battery, 2,000 rounds. Two 175-mm.
batteries were within supporting range.
The amounts and types of preparatory fires were impressive.
Fourteen B-52 strikes were directed against the hard targets. Eleven
of the strikes were within twenty-four hours of H-hour, the last at
0850 on D-day. Following the strikes, a tactical preparation of four
flights dropped Daisy Cutter bombs to neutralize any enemy in the
landing zones. When the last aircraft cleared the landing zones, the
artillery preparation began. Each 105-mm. battery fired 1,000
rounds, each 155-mm. battery fired 600 rounds, and each 175-mm.
battery fired 200 rounds on two landing zones. Approximately
8,000 rounds of artillery were fired before H-hour by the ten
batteries supporting the operation.
Enemy resistance was light on one landing zone and moderate to
heavy on the other. Four gunships were damaged or destroyed
during the initial phase of the operation, but no troop-carrying
ships were lost.
By 6 August, all elements of the 101st and the Vietnamese task
force had been moved into the A Shau Valley and were conducting
reconnaissance-in-force (RIF) operations in their assigned areas,
with very light contact. Withdrawal of the forces began on 17
August 1968 and was completed on 19 August. Results of the opera­
tion were 181 enemy killed and 4 captured, 45 individual weapons
and 13 crew-served weapons seized, and the following miscellaneous
enemy equipment captured or destroyed:

Equipment Quantity
2-ton trucks destroyed 7
Rice captured 12 tons
122-mm. rockets 11
Crew-served weapon ammunition 1,142 rounds
12.7-mm. heavy machine gun ammunition 18 cases
Small-arms ammunition 32 cases
Mines 54
Medicine 51 pounds
Medical kits 4
Communication wire 11 kilometers
Switchboard 1
Field telephones 2
Huts destroyed 215

Actions at Fire Bases and Lessons Learned

Fire bases throughout Vietnam sustained numerous attacks in

this period of maximum U.S. troop commitment. The fire base
concept surpassed the most optimistic expectations. Occasionally
the enemy was able to penetrate the defenses and take a heavy toll
of personnel and equipment, but he never was able to take an
American fire base. At the same time, lessons learned in countering
enemy attacks during this period suggested further refinements of
procedures for establishing and defending a fire base. For instance,
actions at Fire Support Bases MAURY I and PIKE VI provided
valuable insights on the proper positioning of artillery when several
batteries occupied the same fire base.
Batteries B and C (105-mm.), 7th Battalion, 11th Artillery, and
Battery A (155-mm.), 3d Battalion, 13th Artillery, were occupying
MAURY I, a 25th Infantry Division Artillery fire base. Although the
base was located in what was probably the best available area, bam­
boo thickets and wood lines surrounded the clearing. The three field
artillery batteries had been arranged within the perimeter in a
triangle, with one battery at each point. The 155-mm. battery was
to the west and the 105-mm. batteries to the northeast and south­
On the night of 9 May, MAURY I came under heavy attack.
(Map 17) The enemy began his attack at 0200 with an intense
mortar and RPG (Russian-made antitank grenade) barrage. He
launched a diversionary attack against the northeastern and south­
western portions of the perimeter followed by the main attack
directed against the western portion of the triangle, where the
155-mm. battery was located less than 200 meters from the tree
The 155-mm. battery, between the two 105-mm. batteries and
the attacking enemy, took the brunt of the attack. The RPG fire
had a devastating effect on the 155-mm. howitzers. At 0330 an at­
tempt was made to move two 105-mm. howitzers to the south­
western side of the perimeter to aid the medium battery. By this
time, only one of the 155-mm. howitzers was serviceable; of the
others, three had been completely destroyed, as had two M548
ammunition trucks. Flareships and gunships arrived by 0330 and
Air Force fighter aircraft by 0500. At 0530 a relief element of the
4th Battalion, 23d Infantry (Mechanized), arrived and battered
its way into the beleaguered base. The attack was finally repulsed.
All Beehive ammunition had been expended but, because of
the speed and accuracy of the assault against the medium battery,
less than 10 rounds of 155-mm. ammunition had been fired before


(not to scale)

c | » |7-n


B | » 17-11
Helicopter linos

MAP 17

the destruction of the howitzers. Eighteen Viet Cong were con­

firmed dead, and friendly losses numbered 10 killed and 66
wounded. Four men died of wounds received in battle. These,
along with 7 others killed and 39 wounded, were artillerymen. Five
M109 howitzers were destroyed; one serviceable howitzer was later
pieced together from two damaged howitzers. Two M548 trucks
were destroyed, and one 5-ton truck was severely damaged. Four­
teen Ml6 rifles were either lost or destroyed.
The defenders had been aggressive and determined in with­
standing a heavy enemy attack. Despite their success, as with any
actions, there were lessons to be learned. An analysis of the battle
suggested techniques that might reduce American losses and in­
crease enemy casualties in a similar situation. No bulldozer had been
available to construct berms around the howitzers; ammunition
was protected on the sides only; the medium battery situated at the
point of the triangle should have been more centrally located
within the perimeter and away from a tree line; and poorfieldsof

fire reduced the effectiveness of the Beehive rounds. Positions that

would have allowed maximum use of the Beehive round should
have been chosen early in the occupation of the fire support base.
On the morning of 11 May, Fire Support Base PIKE VI was oc­
cupied by Battery B, 6th Battalion, 77th Artillery (105-mm.);
Battery A, 1st Battalion, 8th Artillery (105-mm.); and Battery C, 3d
Battalion, 13th Artillery (155-mm., self-propelled). (Map 18) The
commander set up the base using the valuable experience gained
from the attack on MAURY I. The batteries entered the fire support
base early in the afternoon, and a bulldozer began constructing
berms for the 155-mm. howitzers immediately. By nightfall only
the turrets of the howitzers were exposed. The 105-mm. batteries
had been carefully positioned to allow maximum use of Beehive,
and two 105-mm. howitzers, one from each battery, had been
placed at strategic points along the perimeter some distance from
the rest of the battery positions. Although the terrain was much the
same as that at MAURY I, the nearby wood lines were covered by
two attached Dusters. The light batteries enjoyed excellent fields
of fire. The medium battery was positioned between the two light
batteries and thus was able to support equally well in all directions.
At 0130 on 12 May 1968 the enemy attacked with a mortar
barrage of approximately 400 rounds, all falling within 30-60
minutes. Once again, the enemy began a diversionary attack from
the south. The Duster position on the southern tip of the base took
60-70 Viet Cong under fire with its M60 machine gun and 40-mm
cannon. The crew managed to fire only 12 rounds of 40-mm. am­
munition, however, before the Duster was silenced by an RPG
round. Leaving 16 enemy bodies in their wake, the crew fell back
to a 105-mm. howitzer pit directly to their rear. The enemy man­
aged to reach the Duster, but small arms and a few well-placed
Beehive rounds from the 105-mm. turned him back.
As the main attack was starting from the west, artillery shells
from adjacent units were already impacting around the perimeter.
Support was called for and received from 155-mm. howitzers of
Battery B, 3d Battalion, 13th Artillery, near Saigon. The entire
western approach was covered by a 105-mm. battery which fired
round after round of Beehive and time rounds, all with a very short
fuze setting, into the attacking enemy. The defense was entirely
successful and the attack ended just two and one-half hours after it
began. Mop-up operations in daylight produced a body count of
110. Friendly force losses amounted to 5 killed and 30 wounded, of
which 1 killed and 5 wounded were artillerymen. No equipment
was lost. The damaged Duster was easily repaired, and two vehicles
sustained minor damage.


Actions MAURY I and PIKE VI offered an excellent example of

how techniques could be improved by observing lessons learned.
The Killer Junior technique, for instance, was developed during
this period and used profitably in defense of fire bases. The tech­
nique was expanded to include projectiles of improved conven­
tional munitions as well as high explosive projectiles. Killer Junior

was employed in the defense of PIKE VI as well as on numerous

later occasions. The following are a few instances when the tech­
nique proved particularly effective:
1. On 13 September 1968, Battery C, 2d Battalion, 13th Artil­
lery, expended 1,305 rounds in defense of Fire Support Base BUELL
and killed 76 enemy.
2. On 25 September 1968, a platoon of Battery C, 6th Battalion,
15th Artillery, expended 288 rounds in defense of Katum and
killed 47 enemy.
3. On 25 September 1968, a platoon of Battery B, 6th Bat­
talion, 15th Artillery, expended 220 rounds in defense of a position
at Thien Ngon and killed 142 enemy.
The 25th Infantry Division conducted an appraisal of its fire
support bases in late 1968, after many of the bases in the Tay
Ninh area had been attacked, and made two major recommenda­
tions. First, commanders were to insure that insofar as possible
fire bases be constructed in a circle and small enough for one
rifle company to defend. Both these recommendations were in ac­
cord with what were already considered correct procedures. Ap­
parently there were sufficient deviations from correct practice to
warrant further emphasis. The circular shape permitted equal fire
power in all directions and allowed for faster emplacement. The
reduction in construction time became essential because the enemy
began to deviate from his normal two- or three-day reconnaissance
and to attack bases on the first or second night after the base was
occupied. The smaller size of the bases also freed more companies
for night ambushes and mobile patrols and reduced the number of
enemy shells that landed in the area. These modifications proved
highly successful in a series of engagements fought along the Cam­
bodian border in early 1969. Each base was manned by one rifle
company and one howitzer platoon. The apparent vulnerability of
these small positions was tempting, and the enemy seized the op­
portunity to try to destroy them. But his forces ran into a storm of
carefully preplanned fire power, which not only broke the assault
but also shifted to attack the enemy and his supporting weapons as
he retreated.
The second major recommendation was that the activities of
fire bases be viewed as offensive operations. The base was con­
sidered the anvil and the maneuver force the hammer. Fire support
or "offensive fires" were planned for the entire battle area. Enemy
troops, attack positions, supporting weapon positions, and command
centers were struck simultaneously, and then when activity declined,
the routes of withdrawal and likely assembly areas were attacked.
This system of deep, simultaneous, and continuous fires was em­

ployed at Fire Support Base CROOK on the night of 5-6 June and
served to test the validity of the fire support base evaluation.
Perhaps the best example of the damage that could be inflicted
on the enemy by the determined defenders of a well established
fire support base occurred in late 1968 during Operation FISH HOOK.
The operation, along the Cambodian border, was in an area astride
a primary infiltration route running through War Zone C into the
Saigon complex. Two fire support bases, RITA and DOT, and one
night defensive position were established to obstruct and interdict
enemy movement south from Cambodia. They were so located
that each fire support base could mutually support the other with
artillery fire and both could support the infantry position.
Headquarters and Battery B of the 1st Battalion, 5th Artillery
(105-mm., towed), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Charles C.
Rogers, and Battery C, 8th Battalion, 6th Artillery (155-mm., self-
propelled), were located at Fire Support Base RITA. This base,
with two batteries and the artillery tactical operations center
(TOC), was the key position. The base was also occupied by one
cavalry squadron and one infantry company. Battery D, 1st Bat­
talion, 5th Artillery, was at Fire Support Base DOT. During the
period 25-30 October, there were enemy mortar and ground at­
tacks on all three bases. Artillery support called in on all these at­
tacks resulted in a Viet Cong body count of 105.
On 1 November 1968 at 0330, the west-northwest perimeter of
Fire Support Base RITA was attacked by a North Vietnamese
Army force of an estimated 800 men. (See Map 13.) The attack
immediately followed a "mad minute" reconnaissance by fire by
the friendly forces. The enemy, initially surprising the friendly
forces with the intensity of his attack, penetrated the defensive
perimeter and was inside the position of the 155-mm. howitzer
battery. A counterattack was mounted and the bunkers were re­
taken. A second attack and penetration was made at 0515 by the
enemy against the southwest perimeter. Again, the enemy was
beaten back by an aggressive counterattack and the defensive po­
sitions were re-established. When the enemy attempted to regain
the initiative by attacking the northern perimeter with a third
charge, the 105-mm. howitzers were swung to the north and lethal
barrages were fired into the massed assaulting enemy.
During the battle, the U.S. forces suffered 12 men killed and
wounded. The enemy body count could not be obtained, but it was
estimated that at least 200 bodies lay in the woods around the fire
support base. The ferocious intensity of the battle, which raged
from 0330 until 0645, with frequent concentrations of mortars im­
pacting the fire support base until 0800, was attested to by the

massive quantity of ammunition expended by friendly forces. The

field artillery fired 1,300 rounds in direct fire and 800 rounds in
indirect fire. In addition, the defense was supported by air strikes
and innumerable strikes by helicopter gunships and fire teams
from the 1st Infantry Division. Colonel Rogers directed the defense
of the base with such heroism as to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Peak Strength and Beginning of Redeployment

On 4 May the enemy launched another wave of nationwide
attacks against 109 cities and military installations, including 21
airfields. These attacks lacked the intensity and co-ordination of the
Tet offensive. Bien Hoa Air Base was the hardest hit installation;
strong attacks occurred in Binh Duong and Hou Nghia Provinces.
The enemy also tried to seize the Saigon-Bien Hoa highway bridge
near Saigon. Heavy fighting continued near Dong Ha in northern
I Corps on 6 May, and moderate to heavy fighting persisted around
Saigon. Because of the attacks on Saigon, another task force was
formed to control U.S. units in the Capital Military District. The
task force was commanded by Major General John H. Hay, Jr.,
deputy commander of II Field Force, Vietnam.
The buildup of U.S. forces continued through most of 1968.
Between February and July, four additional artillery battalions ar­
rived. Two were 155-mm. towed battalions, which were assigned
to the 41st Artillery Group and the 54th Artillery Group. One was
a 105-mm. towed battalion which was assigned to the 108th Artil­
lery Group. The fourth was a 155-mm. towed and 8-inch self-
propelled battalion which was assigned to the Americal Divison as
its general support battalion. During July the 1st Brigade of the
5th Mechanized Division arrived with its 155-mm. self-propelled
direct support battalion. The 1st Brigade was the last major U.S.
Army maneuver unit to be deployed to Vietnam.
Later in the year, two additional artillery battalions arrived
together with more support units and infantry battalions. These
were National Guard units, the first to be deployed to Vietnam. The
two artillery battalions were the 3d Battalion, 197th Artillery, from
New Hampshire, and the 2d Battalion, 138th Artillery, from Ken­
tucky. They were assigned to the 23d Artillery Group and the
Provisional Corps, Vietnam, respectively. The 4th Battalion, 77th
Artillery (Aerial Rocket Artillery), arrived in December 1968 and
was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). With its
arrival, the field artillery was at its maximum strength of the war.
During the latter part of 1968, some major troop realignments
took place. In September the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division,

moved to I Corps to rejoin the rest of the division, and the 3d

Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, moved to III Corps from I Corps.
In October, over the objections of the Commanding General, XXIV
Corps, and Commanding General, III Marine Amphibious Force,
the 1st Cavalry Division began the move from I Corps to III Corps.
The move was completed in November 1968 and the division began
to operate in III and IV Corps areas. With these operations the 1st
Cavalry added another first to its list, that of being the first division-
size unit to operate in all four corps tactical zones.
On 8 June 1969, President Richard M. Nixon announced plans
for returning 25,000 U.S. troops from Vietnam. One month later,
a C-141 Starlifter jet left Bien Hoa Air Base with members of the
3d Battalion, 60th Infantry. On 12 June the 9th Infantry Division
received notification of its selection as the first major U.S. Army
unit to leave the Republic of Vietnam. The first field artillery
unit to redeploy was the 3d Battalion, 34th Artillery, which left
Vietnam on 26 July 1969. It was followed in mid-August by the
1st Battalion, 11th Artillery; 1st Battalion, 84th Artillery; and the
9th Infantry Division Artillery. Since the 3d Brigade, 9th Division,
was remaining in Vietnam, the 2d Battalion, 4th Artillery, also re­
mained as its direct support battalion. The next redeployment of
artillery units took place in September and October, when the 3d
Battalion, 197th Artillery, and the 2d Battalion, 138th Artillery, the
two National Guard units, were returned to the United States. The
2d Battalion, 12th Artillery, and 1st Battalion, 39th Artillery,
were activated in Vietnam as replacements.
The enemy Tet offensive and the allied counteroffensive pro­
pelled the artillery toward increased sophistication. During the
period, the artillery was exposed to essentially three types of major
operations, each with its own peculiar demands. Because of the
proximity of friendly forces and civilians, solving clearance prob­
lems was crucial in Hue and Saigon. The defense and relief of
Khe Sanh resembled a conventional situation with requirements
for large volumes of supporting fires concentrated in a relatively
small area. Operations into A Shau were highlighted by movement
and supply by air and by support of dispersed ground forces. The
period thus offers an interesting study of the actions taken by field
artillerymen to optimize the effectiveness of supporting fires in all

Artillery Organizations
Various organizations were adopted for the field artillery in
Vietnam during this period to meet both the peculiarities of certain

short-term operational requirements and long-term needs. Artillery

commanders at all levels were flexible and innovative in organizing
their subordinate units to provide the best possible support.
At the start of the Tet offensive 34 U.S. Army artillery bat­
talions were in Vietnam. They were organized for the most part to
provide dedicated support to divisions or separate brigades or to
provide area coverage. (Chart 2) Units in I and II Field Force
Artilleries served primarily in the latter role. I Field Force Artil­
lery, with two artillery groups—the 41st and the 52d—and two
separate battalions, provided force artillery in the II Corps areas.
II Field Force Artillery, with two groups—the 23d and 54th—
provided force artillery for both III and IV corps areas. The 108th
Artillery Group was not assigned to either field force. Before Tet
it had been placed under the operational control of III Marine
Amphibious Force to provide artillery support in the I Corps area.
The group was reinforced with the 1st Battalion, 83d Artillery
(8-inch and 175-mm.), from the 54th Artillery Group.
This organization served U.S. maneuver forces and augmented
South Vietnamese artillery when needed during Tet; however,
some reorganization took place thereafter. During the first half of
1968, General Westmoreland created two new headquarters to co­
ordinate the actions of U.S. forces in I Corps and in the Capital
Military District. In March the Provisional Corps, Vietnam (later
changed to XXIV Corps), succeeded Military Assistance Command
Forward, which had been operational since 9 February; and in
June, the Capital Military Assistance Command re-established the
co-ordination which existed during the brief existence of Task
Forces WARE and HAY. The command paralleled that of the newly
established Military Governor of the Capital Military District, who
controlled all South Vietnamese Army forces, National Police,
Regional and Popular Forces, and General Reserve in the district.
This reorganization prompted, in turn, a reorganization of artil­
lery. (Chart 3) In I Corps a provisional Corps Artillery, Vietnam,
was formed. No separate U.S. artillery command was formed to
serve the needs of the Capital Military Assistance Command, but
artillery units around Saigon could look to a single centralized
clearance and co-ordination activity.
Despite the amount of artillery in Vietnam, the old cry that
there were not enough artillery units to support the maneuver ele­
ments was heard again and again. The creation of a fourth firing
battery in some artillery battalions, particularly with the division
artillery direct support battalions, dramatized the requirements and
response. There were generally two reasons for the extra battery.
First, in a brigade, it was not uncommon to have a fourth maneuver

element resulting from the use of the divisional armored cavalry

squadron as a separate maneuver force. A fourth firing battery
was essential to insure the timely delivery of fire to this fourth
maneuver element. Second, the large areas of operations assigned
to division were often difficult to cover by division or field force


I Field Force Artillery 25th Infantry Division—continued
41st Artillery Gp 7th Bn, 11th Arty (105, T)
7th Bn, 3d Arty (105, T) 2d Bn, 77th Arty (105, T)
7th Bn, 15th Arty (8-in/175) 3d Bn, 13th Arty (155/8-in, SP)
2d Bn, 17th Arty (105-155, T) 173d Airborne Brigade
1st Bn, 30th Arty (155, T) 3d Bn, 319th Arty (105, T)
52d Artillery Gp 199th Light Infantry Brigade
3d Bn, 6th Arty (105, SP) 2d Bn, 40th Arty (105, T)
6th Bn, 14th Arty (8-in/l75) 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment
5th Bn, 22d Arty (8-in/175) 3 Sqdn How Btrys (155, SP)
1st Bn, 92d Arty (155, T) 1st Cavalry Division Artillery
5th Bn, 27th Arty (105, T) 2d Bn, 9th Arty (105, T)
6th Bn, 32d Arty (8-in/175) 1st Bn, 77th Arty (105, T)
II Field Force Artillery 1st Bn, 21st Arty (105, T)
23d Artillery Gp 2d Bn, 20th Arty (ARA)
2dBn, 11th Arty (155, T) 4th Infantry Division Artillery
2d Bn, 13th Arty (105, T) 6th Bn, 29th Arty (105, T)
1st Bn, 27th Arty (155, SP) 4th Bn, 42d Arty (105, T)
6th Bn, 27th Arty (8-in/175) 2d Bn, 9th Arty (105, T)
2d Bn, 32d Arty (8-in/175) 5th Bn, 16th Arty (155/8-in, SP)
54th Artillery Gp 23d Infantry Division Artillery
7th Bn, 8th Arty (8-in/175) 6th Bn, 11th Arty, 11th Inf
7th Bn, 9th Arty (105, T) Bde (105, T)
2d Bn, 35th Arty (155, SP) 1st Bn, 14th Arty, 198th Inf
1st Bn, 83d Arty (8-in/175) Bde (105, T)
6th Bn, 77th Arty (105, T ) 1 3d Bn, 82d Arty, 196th Inf
6th Bn, 15th Arty (105, T ) 2 Bde (105, T)
Military Assistance Command, 3d Bn, 18th Arty (8-in/175)
Vietnam, Forward3 3d Bn, 16th Arty (155, T)
108th Artillery Gp 101st Airborne Division Artillery
1st Bn, 40th Arty (105, SP) 2d Bn, 319th Arty (105, T)
8th Bn, 4th Arty (8-in/175) 2d Bn, 320th Arty (105, T)
2d Bn, 94th Arty (175) 1st Bn, 321st Arty (105, T)
1st Infantry Division Artillery 9th Infantry Division Artillery
1st Bn, 5th Arty (105, T) 2d Bn, 4th Arty (105, T)
1st Bn, 7th Arty (105, T) lstBn, 11th Arty (105, T)
2d Bn, 33d Arty (105, T) 3d Bn, 34th Arty (105, T)
8th Bn, 6th Arty (155/8-in, SP) 1st Bn, 84th Arty (155, T/8-in, SP)
25th Infantry Division Artillery
1st Bn, 8th Arty (105, T)
Attached 25th Infantry Division.

Attached 1st Infantry Division.

Provisional Corps, Vietnam, activated and replaced Military Assistance, Vietnam, Forward

on 10 March 1968, later redesignated XXIV Corps, Vietnam.


I Field Force Artillery 1st Brigade, 5th Mechanical Division

41st Artillery Gp 5th Bn, 4th Arty (155, SP)
7th Bn, 13th Arty (105, T) 173d Airborne Brigade
7th Bn, 15th Arty (8-in/l75) 3d Bn, 319th Arty (105, T)
2d Bn, 17th Arty (105-155, T) 199th Light Infantry Brigade
6th Bn, 84th Arty (155, T) 2d Bn, 40th Arty (105, T)
52d Artillery Gp 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division
3d Bn, 6th Arty (105, SP) 2d Bn, 321st Arty (105, T)
6th Bn, 14th Arty (8-in/175) 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment
5th Bn, 22d Arty (8-in/175) 3 sqdn how btrys (155, SP)
1st Bn, 92d Arty (155, T) 1st Infantry Division Artillery
5th Bn, 27th Arty (105, T) 2d Bn, 4th Arty (105, T)
6th Bn, 32d Arty (8-in/175) 1st Bn, 11th Arty (105, T)
XXIV Corps Artillery 3d Bn, 34th Arty (105, T)
108th Artillery Gp 1st Bn, 84th Arty (155, T/8-in, SP)
1st Bn, 40th Arty (105, SP) 9th Infantry Division Artillery
8th Bn, 4th Arty (8-in/175) 2d Bn, 4th Arty (105, T)
2d Bn, 94th Arty (175) lstBn, 11th Arty (105, T)
6th Bn, 33d Arty (105, T) 3d Bn, 34th Arty (105, T)
1st Bn, 83d Arty (8-in/175) 1st Bn, 84th Arty (155, T/8-in, SP)
2d Bn, 138th Arty (155, SP) 1 4th Infantry Division Artillery
1st Cavalry Division Artillery 6th Bn, 29th Arty (105, T)
2d Bn, 19th Arty (105, T) 4th Bn, 42d Arty (105, T)
1st Bn, 77th Arty (105, T) 2d Bn, 9th Arty (105, T)
1st Bn, 21st Arty (105, T) 5th Bn, 16th Arty (155/8-in, SP)
2d Bn, 20th Arty (ARA) 23d Infantry Division Artillery
1st Bn, 30th Arty (155, T) 6th Bn, 11th Arty, (105, T) 11th
25th Infantry Division Artillery Inf Bde
1st Bn, 8th Arty (105, T) 1st Bn, 14th Arty (105, T) 198th
7th Bn, 11th Arty (105, T) Inf Bde
2d Bn, 77th Arty (105, T) 3d Bn, 82d Arty, (105, T) 196th
3d Bn, 13th Arty (155/8-in, SP) Inf Bde
II Field Force Artillery 3d Bn, 18th Arty (8-in/175)
23d Artillery Gp 3d Bn, 16th Arty (155, T)
2d Bn, 14th Arty (105, T) 1st Bn, 82d Arty (155, T/8-in, SP)
1st Bn, 27th Arty (155, SP) 101st Airborne Division Artillery
6th Bn, 27th Arty (8-in/175) 2d Bn, 319th Arty (105, T)
2d Bn, 32d Arty (8-in/175) 2d Bn, 320th Arty (105, T)
3d Bn, 197th Arty (155, T ) 2 1st Bn, 321st Arty (105, T)
6th Bn, 15 th Arty (105, T) 2dBn, 11th Arty (155, T)
54th Artillery Gp 4th Bn, 77th Arty (ARA)
7th Bn, 8th Arty (8-in/175)
7th Bn, 9th Arty (105, T)
2d Bn, 35th Arty (155, SP)
5th Bn, 42d Arty (155, T)
6th Bn, 77th Arty (105, T ) 3

Arrived Oct 68, redesignated 1st Bn, 39th Arty, Oct 69.
Arrived Sep 68, redesignated 2d Bn, 12th Arty, Sep 69.
OPCON Senior Adviser, IV Corps.

artillery under conventional organization. A fourth firing battery

alleviated this condition. Otherwise, the desire to keep maneuver
elements within the range of a 105-mm. battery restricted opera­
The requirement for additional firing batteries could be sat­
isfied in a number of ways. In one instance Headquarters, U.S.
Army, Vietnam, authorized a fourth battery for the 3d Battalion,
319th Artillery, 173d Airborne Brigade. The battalion in this case
supported five maneuver elements and badly needed the additional
artillery. Additional firing batteries in all other cases were organized
from existing assets. Typical was the artillery reorganization in
the Americal Division. Each of the division's direct support bat­
talions was reorganized into two five-tube and two four-tube bat­
teries. The 1st Infantry Division had a more unusual solution.
One or two 4.2-inch mortar platoons were attached to each of
the division's direct support artillery battalions and designated
Batteries D and E. Although attached to the headquarters bat­
tery for administration, these platoons functioned tactically as sep­
arate fire units. The range of the mortars limited their employment
in the direct support role. Consequently, they defended base camps
or covered fire support bases that were out of range of other field
artillery. The particular situation of many artillery battalions did
not require the formation of a fourth battery. Even so, contin­
gency plans were often developed to permit the reorganization on a
moment's notice if the situation were to change. II Field Force
Artillery, for instance, required all light and medium battalions
to have contingency plans for forming a fourth battery from organic
assets. None of these reorganizations made the support rendered
less effective. The nature and size of targets most frequently en­
countered in Vietnam (six or less personnel) could be effectively
engaged with four howitzers rather than six per battery. In fact,
four-tube batteries were frequently more compatible with the small
position areas available.
One of the most interesting organizations was that of Battery D,
2d Battalion, 13th Artillery. This was a composite 105- and 155-mm.
battery which was formed temporarily on two occasions for a
specific purpose. Battery A, 2d Battalion, 13th Artillery, provided
three 105-mm. tubes and Battery B, 3d Battalion, 197th Artillery,
provided three 155-mm. towed weapons toward the formation of
the battery. The regular gun crews were transferred along with
weapons. Other battery personnel and equipment requirements
to flesh out Battery D were filled by both contributing batteries.
The unit capitalized on the advantages of both calibers for jungle
operations. Whereas the 155-mm. howitzer was more effective for

firing in the triple-canopy jungle, the 105-mm. was more effective

for close-in defense and for delivering fire at high rates. Battery
D, known as the Jungle Battery, operated in direct support of the
3d Mobile Strike Force, a joint U.S.-Vietnamese Special Forces com­
mand during operations in War Zone D.

Artillery units at all levels took every reasonable precaution to
insure the safety of allied forces and noncombatants. The require­
ment that artillery units obtain both political and military clearance
was but one of many rules that the artillery was required to observe
in engaging the enemy. The rules were published in a directive
entitled MACV Rules of Engagement, cited below. They are evi­
dence of the unusual care that was required of all soldiers and
commanders to insure that friendly casualties were held to an
absolute minimum:

a. Fire may be directed against VC/NVA forces in contact in
accordance with normal artillery procedures.
b. Unobserved fire may be directed at targets and target areas,
other than VC/NVA forces in contact, only after approval by Prov­
ince Chief, District Chief, Sector Commander, or Subsector Com­
mander and US/FWMAF Military Commander, as appropriate,
has been granted.
c. Observed fire may be directed against targets of opportunity
which are clearly identified as hostile without obtaining Province
Chief, District Chief, Sector Commander, or Subsector Commander
and US/FWMAF Military Commander's approval.
d. Approval by Province Chief, District Chief, Sector Com­
mander, or Subsector Commander and US/FWMAF Military Com­
mander, as appropriate, is required, before directing fire on targets
of opportunity not clearly identified as hostile.
a. Fire missions directed against known or suspected VC/NVA
targets in villages and hamlets occupied by noncombatants will be
conducted as follows:
(1) All such fire missions will be controlled by an observer
and will be executed only after approval is obtained from the
Province Chief or District Chief, as appropriate. The decision to
conduct such fire missions will also be approved by the attacking
force battalion or task force commander, or higher.
(2) Villages and hamlets not associated with maneuver of

ground forces will not be fired upon without warning by leaflets

and/or speaker system or by other appropriate means, even though
fire is received from them.
(3) Villages and hamlets may be attacked without prior warn­
ing if the attack is in conjunction with a ground operation involving
maneuver of ground forces through the area, and if in the judgment
of the ground commander, his mission would be jeopardized by
such warning.
b. The use of incendiary type ammunition will be avoided unless
absolutely necessary in the accomplishment of the commander's
mission or for preservation of the force.
a. Fire missions directed against known or suspected VC/NVA
targets in urban areas must preclude unnecessary destruction of
civilian property and must by nature require greater restrictions
than the rules of engagement for less populated areas.
b. When time is of the essence and supporting weapons must be
employed to accomplish the mission or to reduce friendly casual­
ties, fire missions will be conducted as follows:
(1) All fire missions will be controlled by an observer and
will be executed only after GVN/RVNAF/US approval. The deci­
sion to conduct fire missions in urban areas will be retained at
corps/field force or NAVFORV level. Approval must be obtained
from both the corps commander and the US field force level com­
mander. This approval is required for the employment of any US
supporting weapons in urban areas to include those US weapons in
support of RVNAF.
(2) Prior to firing in urban areas, leaflets and loudspeakers
and other appropriate means will be utilized to warn and to secure
the cooperation and support of the civilian populace even though
fire is received from these areas.
(3) Supporting weapons will be used only on positively lo­
cated enemy targets. When time permits, damage to buildings will
be minimized.
(4) The use of incendiary type munitions will be avoided un­
less destruction of the area is unavoidable and then only when
friendly survival is at stake.
(5) Riot control agents will be employed to the maximum
extent possible. CS agents can be effectively employed in urban
area operations to flush enemy personnel from buildings and forti­
fied positions, thus increasing the enemy's vulnerability to allied
firepower while reducing the likelihood of destroying civilian
property. Commanders must plan ahead and be prepared to use
CS agents whenever the opportunity presents itself.


a. Fire missions within 2000 meters of the RVN/Cambodian
border will be observed, except under circumstances where fires
are in defense of friendly forces and observation of such fires is not
possible. These requirements are in addition to applicable control
procedures stated elsewhere in this directive.
b. Fire missions with intended target areas more than 2000 me­
ters from the RVN/Cambodian border may be unobserved, subject
to applicable control procedures stated elsewhere in this directive.
c. Fire missions will not be conducted where dispersion could
result in fire being placed on or over the RVN/Cambodian border.
d. Commanders will review and comply with the provisions of
MACV Rules of Engagement—Cambodian when planning for op­
erations near the Cambodian/RVN border.

Major commands subordinate to Military Assistance Command

frequently published directives that interpreted the MACV rules,
expanded them in greater detail, and often added qualifications
which made them even more restrictive.
Field artillery units adopted the following procedures in the
employment of their weapons to insure accuracy and preclude
friendly casualties:
1. Firing a smoke shell set for a 200-meter height of burst as the
first round for most observed missions. Smoke was relatively safe;
thus, if the target location was improperly reported, supported
ground troops would not be hurt. The forward observer made any
correction necessary to insure that subsequent high explosive
rounds fell in the intended locations.
2. Double-checking or triple-checking all data at each echelon
from the forward observer to the howitzer. This procedure created
a problem for some units because of personnel requirements. In
many cases, especially in force artillery units, a battalion did not
control its batteries. When the battalion controlled the batteries
and retained a technical fire direction center either the battery or
the battalion computed the mission and the other checked the
data. When the batteries operated separately, each battery center
had to be augmented so that it would have two shifts or two com­


primary plotting chart with check chart.

puters and two chart operators for the double-check system. Data
sent from the fire direction center by one computer were monitored
by the other computer. The executive officer post received the data
and read them back. Data then were passed to the guns through the
executive officer post. One practice called for placing an AN/GRA­
39 remote radio set at each gun. This permitted all members of the
section to hear the data being transmitted to the guns. One section
then read back the data received.
3. Conducting periodic gunner (firing) inspections and drills
for subordinate units.
4. Separating and segregating, by lot, projectiles and powder for
separate-loading ammunition.
5. Insuring that howitzers were boresighted at least twice daily
and that batteries registered twice weekly.
6. Conducting frequent staff inspections of subordinate units to
see that safety policies were being complied with.
Friendly casualties resulting from misplaced artillery fires were
thoroughly investigated whenever the combat situation permitted.
Often the mistake was unavoidable, and, for that reason, investiga­
tion first determined whether the mistake was an accident or an


incident. A firing accident was defined as an occurrence not caused

by human error or neglect. Malfunction of ammunition or equip­
ment, civilian casualties in previously cleared areas, and personnel
hit by debris or secondary fragments were classified as accidents. A
firing incident, on the other hand, resulted from human error or
neglect. Plotting errors by the forward observer or fire direction
center, crew errors in setting quadrant elevation or deflection, and
errors in transmitting unit locations or firing data, in obtaining
proper clearance, in following the rules of engagement, or in iden­
tifying friendly units contributed toward firing incidents. If the
firing error resulted in an incident, its precise cause was determined
and necessary action was taken at all levels to prevent similar errors
in the future.
The investigation of artillery accidents brought to light a prob­
lem in illumination missions. The impact point of the baseplate
and the projectile body could not be accurately determined because
of the erratic trajectory after fuze function. Consequently, it be­
came necessary to establish a buffer zone around the grids of illumi­
nation and impact. Clearance to fire into these buffer areas was
required before illumination could be fired.
A study conducted in 1969 by U.S. Army, Vietnam, into the
causes of artillery, mortar, and aviation incidents and accidents set
out to determine if incidents and accidents followed any discern-
able patterns so that commanders might be forewarned to give

careful attention to certain specific areas. The study showed that a

majority of the accidents and incidents involved direct support
units firing observed fire. The following chart outlines the incident
and accident profile developed in the study as well as recommended
corrective action:

Section I
Inciden t / Acciden t Profile
Occurrence—Time of Day Artillery Mortar Aviation
Morning 20% 13% 27%
Afternoon 23% 20% 40%
Night (before midnight) 31% 47% 21%
Night (after midnight) 26% 20% 12%
Clearance Causes 15% 15% 7%
Materiel Causes 15% 25% 8%
Fire Direction Center Causes 26% 18%
Firing Battery (Mortar Platoon) Causes 21% 19%
Forward Observer Causes 11% 11%
Location Errors 11% 11%
Indefinite Target Location 21%
Fire Too Close to Friendly Locations 18%
Improper Employment by Ground Element 13%

Section II
Most Frequent Causes Recommended Corrections
Improper Clearance In the transmission of cleared and uncleared
grids, address each grid individually specifying
its cleared or uncleared status. Do not clear
targets in groups.
Fire Direction Center 1. Use FAD AC as the primary source of firing
1. Plotting Error data when possible. When not possible, use
2. Deflection Computation FADAC for firing data check.
Error 2. Maintain firing charts in pairs. Use one as
3. RTO/Computer Read Wrong independent check of the other.

Data 3. Require slow, distinct read backs.

4. Friendly Locations not 4. Require fire direction officers to pass a

Plotted qualifying examination before assumption of
duty in battalion or battery FDC.
5. Plot fire bases and frequented locations on
firing chart overlays. Continuously update
overlay or mobile patrols and operations.
Firing Battery 1. Require gunners to pass a qualifying prac­
1. Deflection Error tical examination before assumption of duty.
2. Quadrant Elevation Error 2. Chiefs of section check quadrants with
3. Wrong Charge gunner's quadrant.
3. Prohibit chief of section participation as a
crew member.
Forward Observer 1. Upon entering a new area of operation, con­
1. Misorientation duct familiarization with terrain-map relation­
2. Incorrect Observer-Target ships for that area. Conduct practical tests.
Azimuth 2. When making large lateral shifts in adjust­

ment, observers report a corrected azimuth to

the target.
Location Error Require infantry platoon and squad leaders to
attain terrain-map proficiency described above
for forward observers.

Artillery units were concerned not only with the safety of

friendly forces and noncombatants on the ground but also with that
of aircraft. Aircraft safety was assured by the establishment of air­
craft warning centers. These centers normally were set up and
operated by field artillery liaison sections at maneuver battalion
and brigade. The liaison section was notified by artillery units in
the area before firing and given the direction of fire, the maximum
ordinate of the trajectory, and the point of impact of the projectile.
Aircraft entering the area could then be advised of artillery firings
and provided with recommended safe routes through the area.
In most cases Army control of air space over the battle area was
not contested by the Air Force. Where it was contested, local agree­
ments were made between representatives of both services. The
most common agreement was that air space below 5,000 feet would
be controlled by the Army and that above 5,000 feet by the Air
Force. In certain areas such as Bien Hoa, Tan Son Nhut, and Da
Nang, where the activity of the Air Force aircraft was the greatest,
the Air Force controlled all air space.

Target Acquisition
Targets must be found and their location pinpointed if field
artillery is to be effective. In Vietnam, as in past wars, forward ob­
servers augmented by aerial observers were the principal means to
identify artillery targets. Despite the development and improve­
ment of other target acquisition means, observers were, and prom­
ise to be for some time to come, more reliable, flexible, and
responsive than any other system. This does not say that other
target acquisition means are not valuable. Radars, sound and flash
ranging, and sensors were all employed profitably in Vietnam.
Three target acquisition batteries were deployed to Vietnam.
They were Battery F, 2d Target Acquisition Battalion, 26th Artil­
lery, and the headquarters batteries of the 8th Target Acquisition
Battalion, 26th Artillery, and the 8th Target Acquisition Battalion,
25th Artillery. Each of the headquarters batteries was assigned to a
field force headquarters to co-ordinate field force level target ac­
quisition activities. Battery F established sound and flash bases in
the XXIV Corps area to monitor the Demilitarized Zone. This was

the only sound ranging equipment employed, and though the

equipment failed to detect a large number of targets, all sound
located targets that were engaged resulted in secondary explosions.
Two field artillery radars—the AN/MPQ-4 countermortar ra­
dar and the AN/TPS-25 ground surveillance radar—were de­
ployed throughout the country. The AN/MPQ-4 was assigned to
every direct support battalion and the AN/TPS—25 was assigned to
every division artillery. Both radars were also assigned to field force
radar detachments.
Most units believed that the AN/TPS-25 did a good job and
was a valuable piece of equipment. The AN/MPQ-4, however,
caused mixed reaction. Units identified two major shortcomings:
the radar had a small sector of scan, and it could not locate low-
trajectory weapons, specifically rockets. The first shortcoming could
be significantly alleviated where several radars were available to
provide mutual and overlapping coverage. The second could not be
corrected because the radar had been designed solely to detect high-
trajectory weapons.
An evaluation of the effectiveness of the AN/MPQ-4 was con­
ducted in 1969. The study revealed that in 1,759 attacks over a six-
month period the radar determined only 342 confirmed launch
locations for an over-all effectiveness average of 19.44 percent. For
the months of May and June, the study singled out the limited
sector of scan as the foremost disadvantage. The set could scan only
a 445-mil sector at a time, which accounted for many nonsightings.
Of 537 attacks by fire during these two months, 253 occurred out of
sector, 56 during normal offtime for the crews, and 20 while the set
was down because of mechanical failure. In the remaining 208
attacks in which sightings were possible, 89 sightings were made,
for an over-all operator efficiency of 42.8 percent. The enemy,
aware of these limitations, initiated mortar and rocket attacks from
positions outside the scan of the radar. He first noted the orienta­
tion of the radar and then selected the axis of his attack. In order to
cope with this handicap, U.S. troops employed a screen to conceal
the direction in which the radar was oriented.
As with any sophisticated equipment, the value of the Q-4 was
directly related to the degree its use was emphasized by command­
ers. When careful consideration was given to its positioning and
employment to realize its maximum effectiveness, command in­
terest aroused in radar crews a feeling that their work was impor­
tant. They, in turn, strove to obtain maximum effectiveness from
their radars. On the other hand, lack of command interest often re­
sulted in a radar being positioned on the corner of some installation
where it was ignored, its crews bored and indifferent.

The radar was found to be valuable in fulfilling certain tasks

for which it was not specifically designed. Such tasks included
registering batteries, locating the limits of friendly villages, de­
termining the battery center when survey was not available, and
directing friendly aircraft in bad weather or at night. Hamlets
within range of an AN/MPQ-4 radar were located by hovering a
helicopter over the hamlet while the radar computed an eight-
place co-ordinate. On frequent occasions the 2d Battalion, 9th Ar­
tillery, used its Q-4 to establish the location of firing units within
range. After the base piece had fired a round with charge 1, high
angle, the Q-4 because of the low muzzle velocity of the round
could compute an accurate location within 50 meters. A good ex­
ample of the radar's use in directing aircraft occurred during Opera­
tion WHEELER in October 1967.
Sensors were employed extensively in Vietnam to determine tar­
gets. The sensor was not part of field artillery target acquisition
equipment, but the intelligence elements responsible for their em­
ployment and the artillery worked closely together. Pre-positioned
field artillery was the only fire support means that could respond
immediately to sensor activations. The first family of sensors sent
to Vietnam featured air and land emplaced types. They sensed
intrusion by enemy vehicles or foot troops either seismically,
acoustically, or magnetically. The sensors, planted in strings, had
several important advantages. The direction of movement, the size
of force, and the length of the columns could be determined. Once
the direction of movement was determined, mortars and artillery
were prepared to fire on another sensor further along the string-
when that sensor was activated. A mixture of sensors eliminated
erroneous readings and verified readings for more accuracy; alone,
readings of the basic seismic sensor could be of questionable value,
but acoustic and magnetic sensors mixed in the sensor string pro­
duced more valid data. Sensors first gained notoriety when they
were used in the creation of the so-called McNamara Wall, a forty­
kilometer-long barrier system extending across the Demilitarized
Zone and into Laos. The system consisted of sensors to detect
enemy intrusion, physical barriers to impede enemy movements,
and tactical troop units to strike at enemy incursions. Most of the
fire power to support the system came from artillery, tactical air,
and naval gunfire. The system aimed at cutting down the need for
costly search operations in an area constantly subjected to enemy
artillery and mortar fire from adjacent sanctuaries. Work on this
project began in mid-1967 and continued until early 1968, when
the buildup of U.S. forces in I Corps pre-empted the logistical sup­
port needed to supply the construction material.

Although the physical barrier was never completed, certain

portions of it were sufficiently developed to permit use. South Viet­
namese forces manned the complete static defense positions and
thereby freed the American troops for mobile operations. A part of
the early warning system operated during the siege of Khe Sanh
and proved to be effective. Although in themselves no deterrent to
enemy movement, sensors enabled friendly forces to bring the
enemy under fire by providing targeting data for bombing and
artillery strikes.
Once the McNamara Wall was shelved, sensors were made
available to units in Vietnam. The experiences of the 25th Infantry
Division provide two examples of their value.
On the morning of 15 March 1969, sensors near Fire Support
Base MALONE, a relatively secure troop recuperation area near Dau
Tieng, were activated. (See Map 13.) The monitor alerted the
command group and the fire support element to the possibility of
enemy presence. The command group soon determined that an
enemy force had assembled in a bamboo thicket several hundred
yards from the base. Artillery and mortar barrages covered the
area. At daylight a patrol searched the area and found 21 enemy
dead and 4 wounded, 129 rounds of heavy weapons ammunition, 3
rocket-propelled grenade launchers, a mortar, and a flamethrower.
A pending attack had been thwarted.
The attack against Fire Support Base CROOK on the evening of
5-6 June 1969 serves as a second example. (Map 19) The base,
established in April 1969 northwest of Tay Ninh city, hampered
enemy operations and served as a springboard for American opera­
tions near the Cambodian border. Anticipating an attack, U.S.
forces emplaced sensors along all possible approaches. On 5 June
the sensors exposed enemy activity 950 meters east and 550 meters
northwest of the base. Simultaneously, a tower-mounted radar
picked up enemy movement along the wood line. Artillery and
small-arms fire engaged the enemy. The North Vietnamese forces
responded with a fierce mortar barrage and several probing at­
tacks but never managed to reach the perimeter. At dawn the
enemy withdrew and left 75 dead. The Americans suffered 1 killed
from an enemy mortar round. The next night sensors heralded
a renewed attack in greater strength. This time the American
defenders, alerted by the sensors and aided by their night vision
devices, accounted for 323 enemy dead and 10 captured without a
single American loss. On the night of 7 June the Viet Cong launched
another, much weaker, attack but then withdrew and left 3 dead on
the battlefield. The early warning provided by the sensors on
these occasions had stripped away the element of surprise.


MAP 19,

Ground surveys and meterological data determination have

traditionally been considered by the field artillery to be target
acquisition activities, though in the strictest sense they are not.
Ground survey and meteorological data provide accuracy to fires on
targets that have already been acquired.
Survey increases accuracy by determining the exact location of
firing units in relation to other firing units, and, where possible,
in relation to the forward observer and the target. The Vietnam
environment made survey difficult. Survey control points were scarce
and those that were available had often been disrupted; distances
which survey parties were required to cover were often excessive
and areas insecure; and field artillery often displaced so frequently
that there was no time for survey. The most common method
for determining position location consisted of a sun shot taken
by survey personnel at the battery location which would provide
accurate direction. The position location was then determined by
resection or map spot.
If local meteorological data are available, weapons accuracy
can be further improved, because weather effects can be applied
by fire direction centers to the computation of fire missions. Ac­
cordingly, meteorological stations were established throughout
Vietnam. Station sites were continuously evaluated and sections
were relocated when necessary to provide optimal coverage. Where
a large difference in altitude existed between a fire base and the

servicing station, the use of a supplemental mountain meteorologi­

cal team at the fire support base proved effective.

Artillery Raids
A principal offensive operation employed during this period
was the artillery raid. It was a combined arms effort, but unlike
other types of offensive operations, the entire effort supported the
field artillery rather than the maneuver force.
The artillery raid was designed to extend available combat
power into remote areas and to mass fires on enemy units, base
areas, and cache sites beyond the range of artillery at a fixed fire
base. Artillery raids involved the displacement of artillery to sup­
plementary positions, engagement of targets with heavy volumes of
field artillery and other supporting fires, and withdrawal from the
supplementary positions. The entire operation was conducted as
rapidly as possible to achieve surprise and took maximum advantage
of the airmobility and the aerial observation and target acquisition
capabilities of the division. The majority of the raids were con­
ducted with 105-mm.^and 155-mm. howitzer units of division artil­
lery; however, field force artillery, particularly 155-mm. towed bat­
teries, was frequently employed in raids or in support of divisional
artillery raids.
Experience demonstrated that artillery raids were best conducted
and controlled by a brigade headquarters. The decision to con­
duct a raid was normally made at division level. Target area selec­
tion was based on all available intelligence, and a specific area of
operation for the raid was assigned to the brigade headquarters.
Divisional or nondivisional artillery supported the operation with
the requested or available number of firing batteries. The con­
trolling brigade headquarters tasked a subordinate battalion to
provide security, and the division made the required aviation lift
available. A typical package included one 105-mm. howitzer battery,
one understrength 155-mm. howitzer battery (three howitzers),
one rifle company for security, aerial observers from division artil­
lery, and, when available, air cavalry assets for target acquisition
and damage assessment.
In order to conduct artillery raids on short notice, divisions
developed and published standing operating procedures in the form
of operations plans. Contingency loads, assembled to support all
quick reaction operations, were immediately available to support
artillery raids. Particularly during the monsoon period, raids served
the important secondary purpose of maintaining airmobility ex­
pertise in artillery units that would otherwise remain static for

extended periods. As troop strength declined, Americans were de­

fending increasingly larger areas with fewer forces. This, in turn,
resulted in the increased use of artillery raids as a method of
making U.S. combat power more widely felt and denying the
enemy the unrestricted freedom of movement he would otherwise
have enjoyed beyond the range of guns.
Logisticians were kept busy delivering ammunition and sup­
plies to field artillery units and providing required maintenance
support. From the logisticians's point of view, the preferred method
of supplying field artillery units was by truck convoy, augmented
by helicopter delivery. Truck convoys were more economical, more
dependable, and could move more supplies at one time than those
helicopters normally available for resupply. The enemy situation
and operational needs, however, dictated the manner in which
units were supplied. Light firing batteries which moved frequently
were often supplied entirely by helicopter. Other units which
moved less frequently were generally supplied by helicopter on
initially occupying a fire base, and later by truck if roads were
available and could be cleared of mines and secured. Heavy units
moved by road and could thus bring initial supplies with them
and continue to be supplied by convoy thereafter.
Supply by road in insecure areas was frequently accomplished
every two or three days. On those days the road was swept for
mines in advance and secured by ground forces long enough for
the convoy to complete its run. Daily needs such as rations, water,
and ice could then be supplied by helicopter.
All firing batteries carried sufficient supplies and ammunition
with them during their move to permit them to start construction
and fire supporting missions immediately upon occupying a fire
base. Stocks were increased or replenished in subsequent supply
deliveries. No generalizations can be made as* to the amounts and
types of bunker and barrier material a unit would carry or receive
later. Ammunition requirements, on the other hand, were estab­
lished in written directives. Firing units were required to carry a
basic load with them at all times. Basic loads varied somewhat
depending on the area of operation and location of the ammuni­
tion supply point. The following basic load is representative:

a. 105-mm. Howitzer Battery

(1) High Explosive (HE) 1,600 meters
(2) Illumination (ILL) 320 rounds
(3) White Phosphorus (WP) 60 rounds
(4) Antipersonnel or "Beehive" 36 rounds
(5) Improved Conventional Munitions (ICM) or "Firecracker" 24 rounds

b. 155-mm. Battery
(1) HE 1.200 rounds
(2) ILL 400 rounds
(3) WP 48 rounds
(4) ICM 18 rounds
c. 8-Inch Howitzer Battery
(1) HE 600 rounds
(2) ICM 8 rounds
d. 4.2-Inch Mortar Platoon (Infantry)
(1) HE 1,200 rounds
(2) ILL 300 rounds
(3) WP 50 rounds

While occupying a position a firing unit was continuously sup­

plied at a rate which allowed it to maintain a prescribed stockage
objective. The stockage objective was established above the basic
load and was used as an aid in ammunition supply management.
A typical stockage objective for high explosive ammunition is as
Ammunition Number of Rounds
105-mm 2,000

155-mm 1,600

8-inch 800

4.2-inch 1,600

Maintenance support requirements varied with the type of unit

and were satisfied in several ways. Units with towed howitzers gen­
erally experienced no unusual maintenance problems because the
weapons had relatively few moving parts to malfunction. On those
occasions when towed weapons needed to be repaired, they could
quickly be picked up by helicopter from the fire base, brought
to the repair facility and returned quickly when repairs were com­
pleted. Self-propelled weapons were more troublesome. They were
more sophisticated, more likely to break down, and too heavy to
move by helicopter. It was necessary to make arrangements to
evacuate the equipment by road. Either a separate convoy for
that purpose was formed or the weapon was held until it could
be linked up with a convoy of some other unit. If the malfunction
of the weapon was in its mobility system, additional arrangements
were made to secure a tank retriever to tow the weapon.
Whenever possible, maintenance contact teams were sent by
helicopter to the fire base to attempt repairs on inoperative weap­
ons. The teams were alerted by the unit requesting their support
of the nature of the problem and were, therefore, able to limit
their load to only those tools and spare parts required to make

AMMUNITION RESUPPLY BY CH-54 on Fire- Support Base 6 near Kontum.

the repair. Still, all repairs could not be made on site, and though
the efforts of maintenance contact teams alleviated the problem,
they came far from solving it.
In 1968 U.S. Army, Vietnam, recognized that user level and
direct support maintenance was difficult to perform on site and
was often neglected because of operational needs. As a result U.S.
Army, Vietnam, established a repair and return program for 8-inch
and 175-mm. units. A weapon and its crew stood down in a direct
support maintenance facility for complete maintenance service of
the weapon.
Harassing and Interdiction Fires
One topic of much discussion in Vietnam was the effects of
harassing and interdiction (H&I) fires. These were unobserved
fires placed on likely or suspected enemy locations or routes. Tar­
gets were most often chosen from aerial and map reconnaissance.
Lieutenant General Frank T. Mildren, Deputy Commanding
General, U.S. Army, Vietnam, stated, "In my estimation, pure
H8cl fires in Vietnam environment have little, if any, value while
doing practically no damage to the enemy. I have requested that

tactical commanders reduce their H&I fires." There were many who
agreed with General Mildren, but there were many who did not.
Numerous reports indicated that the Viet Cong feared the artillery
firing at night and that this firing was inflicting damage and
casualties. Even so, no one could deny that if not employed judi­
ciously, harassing and interdiction fires could result in extremely
large ammunition expenditures.
During General Mildren's tour, the use of harassing and in­
terdiction fires was reduced and a program of intelligence and
interdiction (I&I) fires was instituted. Whereas targets for the
former were often based on map reconnaissance alone, the latter
were less arbitrary in that some type of enemy intelligence had to
justify the firings.
The 4th Division set the example in executing the intelligence
and interdiction program. The largest portion of the unobserved
fires delivered by the artillery with the 4th Division was fired on
targets acquired by one or more intelligence means. Interdiction
fire was used successfully in conjunction with the road security
missions of the division. The division developed a road firing pro­
gram that covered likely approaches to areas in which repeated
mining incidents had occurred and approaches to key bridge and
culvert crossings along Highways 14N and 19E. The fires, which
were delivered periodically throughout the night and early morn­
ing, resulted in the reduction of mining and bridge incidents
along these major highways.
Intelligence and interdiction fires were effectively employed
using the time-on-target technique. Instead of firing single rounds
on a target over a period of time, a battery or several batteries
would time the rounds so that all arrived on the target at the
same time. These fires created shock and achieved maximum sur­

Civic Action
Field artillery units throughout South Vietnam supported the
government's pacification program through a number of civic ac­
tion programs. Short-term projects included food and clothing dis­
tribution, rodent and pest control, and medical assistence. Long-
term projects included construction and follow-up support of
schools, markets, hospitals, and orphanges.
Firing batteries normally carried out only short-term projects.
They generally moved too frequently to do otherwise. Their
usual contribution was in connection with the Medical Civic
Action Program (MEDCAP). Battery aidmen supervised by the

surgeon of the parent battalion visited local hamlets daily to treat

the sick and to educate local medical personnel. The seriously ill
or injured were evacuated to civilian hospitals or, sometimes, to
U.S. military hospitals. On one occasion the 1st Battalion, 44th
Artillery, assisted an eight-year-old girl and her grandmother, each
of whom had a missing leg. The two were evacuated to the German
hospital ship Helgoland where they were fitted for artificial limbs.
Long-term civic action projects were accomplished by the head­
quarters and service batteries of field artillery battalions and higher.
Their accomplishments were impressive. The civic action project
in Vietnam recognized as the most outstanding was Gadsden Vil­
lage, accomplished by a field artillery unit—the 23d Artillery
Group. The citizens of Gadsden, Alabama, adopted the 23d as
their sponsored unit in Vietnam. They offered financial assistance
to the group for any project to help the men. Instead of accepting
the Alabama goodwill for themselves, the artillerymen decided to
channel the aid to the homeless refugees in the Phu Loi area.
With land donated by the Vietnamese government and the
more than $21,000 contributed by the citizens of Gadsden, the
artillerymen set out to help the refugees build a village. Houses
were built with self-sufficiency in mind. There was enough space
between the houses for a vegetable garden for each family. But
the Redlegs did not stop with building houses. They constructed a
six-room schoolhouse and hired trained teachers, built a community
center building, and established a co-operative sewing center, a
large dispensary, a soccer field, a hog-raising complex, and a water
distribution system. Gadsden Village was exemplary of the goal of
civic action—to help the people help themselves.

Vietnamization, November 1969-February 1973

President Richard M. Nixon, in November 1969, officially es­

tablished the goal of the American effort in the Vietnam conflict
as being that of enabling the South Vietnamese forces to assume the
full responsibility for the security of their country. Although
Vietnamization was a new word, the concept was neither new nor
revolutionary but was, in fact, a return to an earlier policy—one
that had all but disappeared in the feverish escalation from aid and
advice to combat support to active participation. As early as the
summer of 1967, the first tentative steps toward Vietnamization
were being taken. Concerned about the effectiveness of Vietnamese
Army, Regional Forces, and Popular Forces units, General West­
moreland directed that a conference be held to air views, consider
proposals, and make recommendations through which assistance
could be provided the Vietnamese military in order to mold it into
an aggressive and responsible fighting force.

Field Artillery Assistance Programs

Senior American commanders met at Pleiku on 12 August 1967

and, on the basis of their conclusions, the Commanding General,
I Field Force, Vietnam, directed that the Commanding General, I
Field Force Artillery, "establish liaison with Vietnamese units and
. . . isolate problems to be alleviated through U.S. training sup­
port." I Field Force Artillery immediately assigned a liaison offi­
cer to II Corps (Vietnamese) Artillery to "provide a channel for
the request of supporting U.S. artillery for ARVN operations in
II CTZ." This officer was recalled when the necessary procedures
had been established, and his duties were assumed by the artillery
officer of II Corps Advisory Group. To provide further assistance,
an "on-call" liaison officer from the 52d Artillery Group was desig­
Even as this co-ordination was being established, a decentralized
assistance program was developing. On 28 September 1967, Briga­
dier General William O. Quirey directed that all field force artil­
lery battalions establish forward observer teams specifically to train

Regional and Popular Forces units in the techniques of fire ad­

justment. Further, battalions were to provide any assistance neces­
sary to assist Vietnamese artillery units to achieve maximum tech­
nical proficiency. This guidance, however, proved to be too general.
Field force battalions provided only sporadic aid in the II Corps
area, and effectiveness depended on the willingness of the Viet­
namese participants in the program and the ability of the U.S.
units to do the job.
Meanwhile, I Field Force Artillery had initiated a four-month
study of Vietnamese Army artillery operations in order to evaluate
the effectiveness of their support. Total assets in II Corps were
103 105-mm. howitzers and 41 155-mm. howitzers. Of these, 6
155-mm. and 15 105-mm. tubes were committed to support train­
ing centers, 6 155-mm. and 13 105-mm. tubes were located at Due
My in support of the South Vietnamese Army Artillery Center
and School, and 2 105-mm. pieces were situated in Da Lat in
support of the South Vietnamese Military Academy. Although all
school support weapons had the secondary mission of supporting
the Due My complex and Da Lat city, their primary function of
school support prevented their effective utilization in support of
operations. In addition 18 105-mm. pieces were positioned in pla­
toons at Special Forces and Civilian Irregular Defense Group
camps. The remaining guns—55 105-mm. and 30 155-mm. pieces
—had primary responsibility for supporting Army and Regional
and Popular Forces maneuver elements. Because this artillery also
had to provide fire support for road security and the various
political headquarters throughout II Corps, platoon and split-
battery configurations were the prevalent formations employed. The
size of II Corps Tactical Zone, some 30,000 square miles, and
the magnitude of the mission proved the artillery incapable of
providing even marginal fire support to maneuver forces during
offensive operations.
The study examined ten long-term operations and seventy-two
short-term operations. Long-term operations were defined as those
performed within the framework of the normal mission of the
maneuver force and short-term operations as those in response to
specific and immediate needs such as those based on special intel­
ligence. Findings showed that artillery supported slightly less than
half of the short-term operations. Of those operations which were
listed as being supported by artillery, each maneuver battalion was
shown to have received artillery support which averaged slightly
more than one platoon (two guns). The average support was less
than one platoon of artillery per battalion when all short-term
operations were taken into consideration. The study also showed

that although South Vietnamese Army artillery units were

thoroughly grounded in the fundamentals of gunnery, they were
severely hampered by poor maintenance practices, slipshod repair
parts support, and inadequate communications equipment. Further
problem areas were encountered in the meteorological support and
survey capabilities of the Vietnamese. Based on this study, specific
programs were initiated to upgrade the ability of Vietnamese
artillery to support maneuver forces in the field. This aid was
aimed at increasing the responsiveness of the firing units in an­
swering calls for fire and the ability of the ground soldier to re­
quest and adjust fire. Because the mission of Vietnamese batteries
continued to be security of roads and strategic installations, no
attempts were made to increase the fire-massing capacity of these
To remedy the problems exposed by the study, American artil­
lery units in early 1968 initiated four assistance programs. Task
Force DAI BAC I (Cannon I) was formed by the 1st Battalion, 92d
Artillery, to assist Vietnamese artillery units in the Kontum area.
This program was short-term, lasting only 23-27 February 1968.
Its primary mission was to ascertain the condition of the Vietnam­
ese weapons and to demonstrate the responsiveness of Vietnamese
and U.S. artillery to calls for fire from Vietnamese, Regional and
Popular Forces, and U.S. units in the Kontum area. To accomplish
this mission, the 92d Artillery established a fire direction center,
collocated with the Vietnamese 221st Artillery Battalion at
Kontum, that could control all artillery fire in the area. The objec­
tive was to create a working Vietnamese fire direction center. An­
other team with interests in logistics and maintenance was to
examine and correct hardware deficiencies. Additional teams were
designated to assist in firing battery operations, communications,
and survey. Because of the short duration of the program, specific
objectives were established for each day to insure that all areas were
examined and upgraded. The program revealed that significant
shortcomings in fire direction procedures were caused primarily by
a lack of logistical support and by poor understanding of sophisti­
cated gunnery procedures. Firing battery deficiencies were closely
tied to logistical or maintenance support. Tubes ranged in age from
thirteen to twenty-seven years and averaged 10,000 rounds per
tube. The task force provided the necessary logistical support to
upgrade the weapons and instructed Vietnamese in advanced fire
direction procedures. The task force also pointed out that the re­
maining problem areas were founded in the weak Vietnamese
logistical system and recommended that artillery advisers spend
more time with their units and actively establish liaison with

neighboring American units so that assistance could be made more

readily available.
At the same time that Task Force DAI BAC I was being estab­
lished, another program began to provide assistance to Civilian Ir­
regular Defense Group and Special Forces artillery platoons.
Responsibility for the program was given to the major artillery
commands in II Corps. These commands provided technical assis­
tance to the Civilian Irregular artillery platoons. Classes were con­
ducted in fire direction, firing battery operations, and maintenance.
Initial success resulted in the continuation of the program on a
regular basis.
Perhaps the most important of the four projects was the I Field
Force and Army of the Republic of Vietnam Associate Battery
Program, which commenced on 14 March 1968. The idea behind
the program was to augment the existing advisory effort, improve
the effectiveness of Vietnamese forces, and open channels for better
co-ordination of fire support and mutual understanding. Under this
concept, U.S. artillery units sponsored selected Vietnamese bat­
talions in their locale and provided them with a responsive Ameri­
can headquarters from which to request technical, maintenance,
and training assistance.
Finally, I Field Force Artillery developed a program of instruc­
tion to train Vietnamese artillerymen in the use of antipersonnel
(Beehive) ammunition in preparation for the time when Vietnam­
ese firing units would be issued the special rounds. This program,
however, never became functional because the Vietnamese Joint
General Staff had not authorized their units to draw and employ
the ammunition.
The initial success of these programs, coupled with the disas­
trous defeat suffered by the Communist forces during their ill-fated
Tet offensive earlier in the year, allowed the embryonic Vietnam­
ization program to grow. During the fall of 1968 military leaders in
Vietnam studied after-action reports, intelligence estimates, and
staff studies pertinent to the Tet campaign and its immediate after­
math. From these evaluations a parallel course—one that would
merge with President Nixon's some eight months later—began to
germinate. On the basis of an over-all evaluation of the Army of
the Republic of Vietnam, it became evident to these leaders that if
Vietnamese forces were eventually to assume the burden of the
ground war, a test of their ability to operate semi-independently
would be necessary. The stress on semi-independence rather than
complete autonomy was in recognition of the inherent weakness of
these forces in fire support and air assets. To this end, a suitable
testing ground had to be found. The area had to be secure enough

to allow for unhampered transfer of forces before Vietnamese units

became actively engaged but at the same time had to have poten­
tially significant enemy activity to provide the Vietnamese with a
viable test. Further, the testing ground had to be in an area of
minimal danger to the pacification program. An ideal area was
found in northern Kontum Province, with its sparse population,
potential enemy threat from Laos and Cambodia, and relative
isolation from the psychologically important population centers of
the country.
Preliminary discussions between American and Vietnamese
leaders began in late 1968, and a verbal agreement was reached in
January 1969 between Lieutenant General William R. Peers, Com­
manding General, I Field Force, Vietnam, and Major General Lu
Mong Lan, Commander, II Corps. However, this agreement was
not written, and the designated Vietnamese force, the 42d Regi­
ment, and its command headquarters, the 24th Special Tactical
Zone, failed to assume responsibility for the area by 1 February
1969, as had been agreed. Further, negotiations were hampered by
the natural confusion of a change of command at I Field Force,
Vietnam, and it was not until 12 April 1969 that General Lu Lan
indicated general agreement with a new proposal. A draft memo­
randum of agreement was drawn up and signed by American and
Vietnamese officials on 24 April 1969. On the same day the ex­
change of forces neared completion and the Army of the Republic
of Vietnam assumed responsibility for northern Kontum Province.
In deference to the weakness of Vietnamese artillery (six 105­
mm. howitzers and six 155-mm. howitzers) the agreement specifi­
cally provided that the 4th Infantry Division Artillery units would
assume effective artillery coverage of National Highway 14, the
major north-south artery in the highlands, and that the Command­
ing General, I Field Force Artillery, would provide general support
artillery as required; support operations within the 24th Special
Tactical Zone with a minimum of two light or medium artillery
batteries; and maintain the fire support co-ordination center to co­
ordinate all fire support means available, including operation of
air advisory stations.
I Field Force assigned the mission of providing the specified
support to the 52d Artillery Group headquarters in Pleiku. The
52d immediately provided six light, twelve medium, and five heavy
artillery pieces to the 24th Special Tactical Zone to augment or­
ganic Vietnamese batteries. Battery C, 4th Battalion, 42d Artillery,
a 4th Division Artillery unit, provided road coverage. Automatic
weapons were allocated from Battery B, 4th Battalion, 60th Artil­
lery (Automatic Weapons). With the assumption of responsibility

for northern Kontum Province by the 24th Special Tactical Zone,

the first major Vietnamese ground operation began. Dubbed DAN
QUYEN by the Vietnamese, it grew out of special agent reports
indicating a major buildup of enemy units southwest of the Ben
Het Civilian Irregular Defense Group camp, which sat precariously
at the convergence of the Laotian, Cambodian, and Vietnamese
In order to head off Communist plans to execute a strong
offensive effort in the highlands, the 24th Special Tactical Zone was
tasked to conduct operations to spoil Communist plans, protect Ben
Het, and compel enemy forces to retire to their Cambodian sanc­
tuaries. The operation was conducted in three phases: Phase I (5­
15 May) involved forces of three Vietnamese and two mobile
strike force battalions screening the tri-border area west of Ben
Het; Phase II (16 May-3 June), based on intelligence produced
during the initial phase, was a six-battalion (plus) offensive opera­
tion conducted southeast of Ben Het and targeted against elements
of the North Vietnamese 66th Infantry, 28th Infantry, and 40th
Artillery Regiments; and Phase III (3-5 June) consisted primarily
of bomb damage assessments by multibattalion Vietnamese forces
and the establishment of a defensive screen around the Dak To,
Tan Canh, and Ben Het areas. By operation's end the South Viet­
namese had succeeded in mauling the Communist forces and estab­
lishing a favorable 7-to-l kill ratio. In support of the operation, the
52d Artillery Group provided 29 tubes of artillery—12 105-mm.
howitzers, 12 155-mm. howitzers, 1 8-inch howitzer, and 4 175-mm.
guns—and assigned the 1st Battalion, 92d Artillery, to establish
the forward command post for U.S. support forces. This command
post was later expanded into a fire support co-ordination center for
all American artillery in the area. From their own assets, Vietnam­
ese forces utilized 8 155-mm. and 6 105-mm. howitzers in support
of the operation. A total of 73,016 rounds was expended by friendly
firing units. Enemy soldiers captured during the campaign ex­
pressed a fear of first-round volley fire employed by both South
Vietnamese and U.S. units in the form of random time-on-target
Although the operation, was deemed a success, a number of
weaknesses became apparent. The magnitude and complexity of
co-ordinating, integrating, and controlling available fire support
means virtually overwhelmed the 24th Zone staff at the Dak To
tactical operations center. Some of the blame for this failure was
attributable to an inexperienced staff and the inadequate manning
structure of the headquarters, but specific shortcomings were ap­
parent as well. When the 92d Artillery established the U.S. fire

support co-ordination center at Dak To, South Vietnamese com­

manders were encouraged to send representatives, but only one did
so. Fire support activities thus were not properly co-ordinated, so
flexibility was lost, resources were wasted, efforts were duplicated,
and frequently targets were not attacked with the appropriate
means at the proper time. This problem originated with the failure
of the force commanders in organizing for combat to understand or
appreciate the need to integrate closely maneuver plans and fire
support plans and to collocate the tactical operations and fire sup­
port co-ordination centers. The problem was finally rectified two
weeks after the operation started when the commander of the 1st
Battalion, 92d Artillery, was tasked to establish an integrated fire
support co-ordination center. This agency quickly matured into an
effective organization capable of providing timely and accurate fire
Additional problems were encountered in fire clearances, co­
ordination of fire support assets at company level, and requests for
and adjustment of artillery fire. It became apparent that these
deficiencies were a result of the dependence of the South Vietnam­
ese commanders on American advisers. These weaknesses were not
corrected satisfactorily and it was clear that additional stress in
training would be required to upgrade the fire support co­
ordination ability of Vietnamese units.
Despite the weaknesses noted during the campaign, the per­
formance of the Vietnamese forces proved that they could plan and
successfully execute semi-independent ground operations against
Communist main force units. The significance of this fact would
not be apparent for another five months, when the policy of Viet­
namization became the stated objective of the American command
in Vietnam.
By 1968, Military Assistance Command had submitted its plans
for Phase II of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Improve­
ment and Modernization Plan. Phase II planning was based on
assumptions that North Vietnamese intervention would increase
and that the missions of the allied forces would remain substantially
unchanged from those that had been stated for fiscal year 1968; that
is, U.S. and allied forces were assigned to destroy Viet Cong and
North Vietnamese Army forces and base areas, and South Vietnam­
ese Army and Regional and Popular Forces units were to support
the pacification program. Because of these assumptions, the im­
provement plan was rather methodical and cautious. The proposal
was submitted to the Secretary of Defense, who disapproved and
returned it to the Saigon planners for substantial revision. In early
1969 the plan was resubmitted as Phase Ha, which assumed the
same basic premises as those of the initial Phase II plan but sub­
stantially increased the speed and scope of the modernization. On
28 April 1969, the Deputy Secretary of Defense gave final approval
of the Military Assistance Command program as modified by the
Joint Chiefs of Staff and in his approving memo stated: "Viet­
namizing the war should have the highest priority. Providing
needed equipment for the RVNAF is therefore of greatest impor­
tance. To assure that equipment turned over to the RVNAF can
be used effectively, it must be supported by (1) training and (2)
logistic support."
Phase Ila of the Improvement and Modernization Plan recog­
nized that major shortfalls existed in the fire power capabilities of
the Vietnamese forces, and a substantial portion of the plan was
devoted to rectifying this weakness. The equipment ceilings estab­
lished by the plan were intended to increase substantially the
artillery capability of the Vietnamese. These proposed figures were
further modified when Presidents Nixon and Thieu met at Midway
in June 1969. President Thieu presented the requirements as seen
by the Vietnamese to President Nixon, who in turn gave them to
General Abrams for study, comment, and possible inclusion in the
program. One of the requirements, as seen by the Vietnamese, was
heavy artillery in the form of four 8-inch field artillery battalions.
After this proposal was scrutinized by Military Assistance Com­
mand, only portions of requests were approved. Three additional
battalions of artillery, two 105-mm. and one 155-mm., were added
to the fiscal year 1970 activation schedule. By the end of 1969, the
artillery improvement plan had undergone a number of revisions
but delivery of field artillery weapons was being accomplished
smoothly and ahead of schedule.


Phase I Phase II Approved MACV Total

Accelerated Fiscal Year Midway Revised Shipped as
Item Fiscal Year 1970 Fiscal Year November of 31
1969 1970 1970 December 1969

M101A1 . . . 602 776 731 731 730
M102 60 61 0 60 60
M114A1 . . . 701 274 290 289 294

At the same time the master plan for Vietnamization was taking
shape, the required training base to prepare the South Vietnamese
Army to assume a more proportionate share of the action imme­
diately and the entire combat role in the future was receiving care­
ful consideration from the appropriate American commands
throughout the country. I Field Force Artillery, which had a sub­
stantial jump on the other headquarters in the establishment of a
training assistance program for Vietnamese forces, reviewed its
existing programs, found them to be valid, and, on the basis of
additional studies, added two plans through which it intended to
improve the capabilities of Regional Forces and Popular Forces
units to call for and adjust artillery fire in defense of their positions
and in support of their operations. In addition, basic fire planning
was taught to the Regional Forces so they could support their own
operations. Based on this program, a comprehensive defensive tar­
get list was developed throughout II Corps and, if a target fell
within range of an artillery unit, fire was adjusted onto it. This
program increased hamlet and village security. Before the initiation
of the plan, only 684 of the existing 4,208 defensive targets planned
at various times during the war had been fired on. By August
1969, with the emphasis applied by I Field Force Artillery, each of
the 52 districts in II Corps had a fire plan, 5,869 targets had been
developed, and 32 percent of the targets had been fired in. The
effectiveness of the program was demonstrated during the week of
11 August 1969, when eight friendly hamlets drove off Viet Cong
attacks by simply calling for previously fired-in defensive targets.
In III Corps Tactical Zone, II Field Force Artillery was also
examining the Vietnamization of artillery support. Until the sum­
mer of 1969, assistance to Vietnamese artillery had been limited to
small contact teams concerned primarily with assisting the Viet­
namese to solve maintenance and logistics problems by making
American supply channels available for immediate, pressing needs.
However, during the summer of 1969, through the efforts of the
commanders of II Field Force Artillery and III Corps Artillery, the
need for a co-ordinated assistance program was examined. Such a
program would complement the II Field Force and III Corps
Operation DONG TIEN (forward together). A combined working
committee was formed to develop a plan for the program, define its
concepts, and establish policies and procedures for co-ordinating
all mutual support projects, which would increase the capabilities
and effectiveness of the combined artillery team in III Corps. The
objectives of the program, as seen by the committee, were to im­
prove co-ordination and mutual understanding between allied ar­
tillery units; to improve fire support effectiveness by combining

planning and co-ordination of fire support, standardizing tech­

niques, and improving quality of training; and to increase artillery
firing capabilities.
To accomplish the program objectives, the planning committee
developed nine mutual support projects:
Project 1: Exchange visits of battery personnel
Project 2: Combined fire support co-ordination centers
Project 3: Procedures and co-ordination requirements for
planning combined fire support
Project 4: Standardized operational readiness evaluations
Project 5: Combined unit refresher training program
Project 6: Standardization of tube calibration procedures
Project 7: Standardization of registration policy
Project 8: Combined use of meteorological data
Project 9: Combined survey control plan
The proposed projects were translated into concrete programs
and initiated in a low key through the associate battery concept.
Key personnel from both U.S. and Vietnamese units visited their
"sister" batteries to gain a better understanding of each other's
problems, observe battery operations, and exchange views. This
exchange of ideas led naturally to the establishment of the stan­
dardized operational readiness evaluations (ORE's) as outlined in
Project 4. A denotative checklist was developed to measure the
effectiveness of artillery units. The checklist was particularly ef­
fective because it matched performance against an established
standard rather than against another unit, minimizing the threat
of embarrassment or loss of face—an important consideration with
the Vietnamese. To prepare units for operational readiness eval­
uations, unit refresher training was initiated. Mobile training
teams were created and dispatched to isolated areas to give in­
struction. Classes were kept small so that thorough instruction could
be given to key personnel and specialists, and on-the-job training
was conducted whenever possible.
In order to standardize procedures and improve the accuracy
of Vietnamese artillery fires, the committee developed a plan to
insure that all weapons were calibrated annually. Second, a stan­
dardized registration policy was adopted throughout III Corps
and emphasis placed on persuading Vietnamese units to accept
American registration practices.
To refine artillery accuracy further, teams provided assistance
to Vietnamese units to develop the capability to use meteorologi­
cal data. All U.S. meteorological stations in III Corps began to
conduct dual-language broadcasts four times daily in order to pro­
vide Vietnamese artillery units with the requisite data. Finally, a

combined effort was initiated to extend survey control to all artil­

lery units in III Corps.
By May 1970, the DONG TIEN Program was well under way
and had scored a number of successes. Over 88 percent of the
howitzers employed by Vietnamese artillery in III Corps were cali­
brated; survey was brought in to 67 of 122 Vietnamese firing
positions, an increase of 55 percent in six months; meteorological
data were received and employed by the majority of the Vietnamese
units; and a substantial number of the Vietnamese artillery units
were employing American registration techniques.
With the refinement and improvement of Vietnamese fire sup­
port, the necessity to control these fires became apparent. Com­
bined fire support co-ordination centers were created in various
provinces throughout III Corps. These centers included Viet­
namese, U.S. and Free World forces artillery representatives, U.S.
Air Force representatives, and, where necessary, U.S. Navy person­
nel. In addition to planning fire support and clearing fires, they
provided a readily accessible means for the interchange of fire
requests between Vietnamese and American units. These agencies
significantly increased mutual support and reduced primary reliance
on U.S. artillery.
In addition to DONG TIEN, three other significant programs
were initiated. The Civilian Irregular Defense Group Artillery
School was opened at Trang Sup on 1 September 1969. It was
created to train CIDG artillerymen to assume the fire support of
seven Special Forces camps. The school was staffed and operated
by the 23d Artillery Group, which designed a compact but thorough
ten-week course. The school conducted three sessions during which
186 Civilian Irregular artillerymen were trained and deployed to
designated camps. With the irregulars assuming artillery duties at
these outposts, Vietnamese Army artillerymen were relieved to
return to their regular force structures. In September 1969, III
Corps Artillery began training a Vietnamese Army artillery battery
in air movement techniques and jungle operations. Training was
completed in December 1969, and the battery assumed direct
support of the 3d Mobile Strike Force, a mission that had been
the responsibility of the U.S. Jungle Battery, a composite battery
of three 105-mm. and three 155-mm. howitzers. This III Corps
training program enabled six guns to be returned to force artil­
lery assets. Finally, the Fire Direction Officer's School, conducted
by Field Force Artillery for its own officers, was made available to
Vietnamese personnel. This week-long course assisted in standardiz­
ing artillery procedures in III Corps by providing comprehensive
instruction in the latest gunnery techniques employed by U.S.

artillery. By May of 1970, 56 Vietnamese officers had been grad­

uated from this school.
At about the same time, considerations for Vietnamization were
being examined in Military Region I. With the impending re­
deployment of the 3d Marine Division, the Vietnamese role would
increase significantly. From November 1969 until 9 March 1970,
the primary exchange of ideas and programs took place between
XXIV Corps Artillery and Vietnamese 1st Division Artillery be­
cause, until its redeployment in March 1970, III Marine Amphibi­
ous Force was the principal American headquarters in the northern
provinces. This interplay between the Americans and Vietnamese
consisted of decentralized programs initiated at all levels through
personal contact and co-ordination established by the U.S. com­
In early 1970, XXIV Corps Artillery, in anticipation of the
impending departure of the Marines, began to study the feasibility
of a more intensive and centralized Vietnamization program. A
XXIV Corps regulation was prepared by corps artillery to outline
the minimum requirements for insuring effective co-ordination
of U.S. and Vietnamese fires. The regulation also included provi­
sions for establishing liaison between supporting artillery elements
and territorial force headquarters down to subsector level. At the
same time, work was initiated to revamp the artillery and air strike
warning system since, at the time, a dual system existed within
the Vietnamese and U.S. chains of command. As American with­
drawals continued, inordinate difficulties might be experienced by
both U.S. and Vietnamese pilots unless the system was effectively
Vietnamized. After careful study, the collocation of the respective
warning agencies was adopted at the most practical solution—one
that would allow for the most orderly eventual transfer of responsi­
bility to the Vietnamese when U.S. strength in Military Region I
no longer justified the combined effort.
During March 1970, XXIV Corps Artillery initiated an artil­
lery instructor training program in support of the Vietnamese
artillery refresher training project. Representatives of all artillery
battalions in the Vietnamese 1st Division and the Quan Da Special
Zone underwent three weeks of instruction to prepare them to
conduct training in their own organizations. Separate courses were
presented in fire direction procedures, firing battery operations,
and maintenance. Upon completion of the instructor training
phase, each battalion formed a mobile training team which was
augmented by one U.S. officer and one U.S. noncommissioned
officer. These teams then moved to the field to conduct refresher
training at battery locations. Early indications were that the pro­

gram was successful and that the proficiency of the firing units
was clearly improved.
One month later a team of officers from XXIV Corps Artillery
and I Corps Artillery (Vietnamese) conducted a survey to de­
termine the proficiency of Regional Forces and Popular Forces
personnel in artillery adjustment procedures and the desirability
of conducting training in the subject. The team interviewed Viet­
namese officials and U.S. advisers in all five provinces; all agreed
on the necessity for forward observer training and agreed to sup­
port a combined U.S. and Vietnamese program to provide such
training. Two programs were instituted, one for Regional Forces
and one for Popular Forces. XXIV Corps directed that the 23d
Infantry (Americal) Division incorporate the Regional Forces
training into its Regional Forces and Popular Forces leadership and
orientation course. The goal of the course was to train observers
from sector headquarters (1 each), subsector headquarters (1 each),
battalion headquarters (2 each), company group headquarters (2
each), and company (3 each).
The first class started on 10 June 1970, and 889 Regional
Forces officers were scheduled to undergo training.
Training for the Popular Forces was assigned to I Corps Artil­
lery, which designed a comprehensive three-day course stressing
basic essentials and live firing. A total of 3,138 Popular Forces
leaders was scheduled to learn adjustment procedures in an eight-
week period beginning 15 June 1970.
Further, agencies responsible for existing programs that had
been established to support American units were directed to shift
their emphasis to Vietnamese artillery batteries. In February 1970,
the corps artillery firing battery inspection team began providing
technical assistance to Vietnamese units. Detailed technical checks
of fire direction procedures, firing battery operations, maintenance,
and safety were made at each battery visited. On-the-spot critiques
were given during the inspections and formal reports were sub­
mitted to I Corps Artillery. Logistical support was limited pri­
marily to technical assistance and emergency aid to insure that
the Vietnamese supply system was exercised. Whenever emergency
assistance was given in the form of supplies or repair parts, one of
the contingencies under which it was granted was that the Viet­
namese unit initiate parallel supply action in its logistics chan­
nels to insure that the demand was recorded.
Even as these programs were being initiated, Military Assistance
Command was finalizing the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces
Improvement and Modernization Plan for fiscal year 1971. An
analysis of Vietnamese combat capability conducted as part of this


plan revealed that a primary shortfall existed in artillery. The

study projected weaknesses in fire power for the coming three
fiscal years in the following areas: medium, heavy, and long-range
artillery for 1971; medium and heavy artillery for 1972; and me­
dium artillery for 1973.
In addition, the rapid expansion of Republic of Vietnam
Armed Forces cut drastically into their experienced manpower
pool and, in turn, diluted the leadership and technical base of
newly created artilfery units. To offset this problem Military As­
sistance Command emphasized the improvement of instruction at
the Vietnamese Artillery School and approved its expansion. Dur­
ing 1970 the Artillery School enrolled 2,327 students, well above
the 1,715 initially planned for the year. Instruction was improved.
New programs were prepared for the survey officer course and the
survey instructor course. A copy of the program for the U.S. artil­
lery advanced course was obtained from Fort Sill, edited to
emphasize essential portions, and provided to the director of in­
struction for updating the battalion commanders course. Several
new gun emplacements with concrete ammunition and personnel
bunkers were built in the school demonstration area.
In June 1970 the most significant training improvement occurred
when the school began to co-ordinate service practice, fire direction,

and gun crew training during live fire exercises. This arrangement
saved ammunition and training time and released support troop gun
crews to perform maintenance. Their training improved noticeably
after the commandant directed that classes be inspected daily and
written reports submitted.
In consonance with the American Vietnamization plan, the Re­
public of Vietnam Armed Forces Artillery Command implemented
a new training program entitled the Reorganization Technique
Plan. The program was to operate in an eleven-month time frame
and was to raise the technical proficiency level of all Vietnamese ar­
tillery units. During Phase 1, January and February 1970, the Artil­
lery Command developed the concepts and disseminated instructions
and lesson plans to the artillery units, which in turn formed mobile
instruction teams. In Phase II, March 1970, the various division
artillery and corps artillery headquarters consolidated the mobile
training teams, issued instructions, and conducted instructor train­
ing. In Phase III, April-November 1970, two-week training pro­
grams were presented at all firing positions and a proficiency test
was administered. To insure the adequacy of the training, the corps
or division artillery headquarters administered a unit test thirty
days after the mobile training teams had completed the training
and individual testing of all firing elements.
Once Military Assistance Command had established the added
emphasis necessary to create a strong training base, it examined
the problems of the projected artillery shortfalls. It became apparent
that the fragmented positioning of artillery, as practiced by South
Vietnamese Army units to secure lines of communication and stra­
tegic centers of population, detracted from the artillery's support of
offensive operations. Even with the activation of new artillery bat­
talions, the ratio of tubes to maneuver battalions did not increase
significantly. Further, the requirement to man artillery platoons in
static locations cut into the manpower pool of Vietnamese forces
and created difficulties during new unit activations. To offset this
weakness, Military Assistance Command approved the addition of
176 two-gun fire support platoons to replace Vietnamese artillery in
fixed sites. Each platoon was authorized 29 spaces to be provided
from Regional Forces assets. By year's end 100 of the 176 platoons
were activated, and of these 53 were deployed throughout Vietnam.
Training of the territorial artillerymen varied from military region
to military region. In Military Region I, contingency plans, which
had been formulated by XXIV Corps Artillery to train these forces,
were activated. In Military Region II, training was accomplished at
the Artillery School and the Vietnamese division training centers;
II Field Force Artillery reoriented the Civilian Irregular Defense

Group Artillery School to prepare territorial forces to assume the

artillery mission. In Military Region IV, the Vietnamese Corps Ar­
tillery established a training center for the Regional Forces artillery­
men. With at least part of the light artillery problem solved,
planners in Saigon attacked the Vietnamese long-range fire power
weakness. After thorough investigation, Project ENHANCE was
promulgated. This plan authorized the activation and deployment
of five 175-mm. gun battalions. Three of these battalions were sched­
uled for deployment in Military Region I. The remaining two
battalions were projected for Regions II and III. Two battalions
were to be trained, equipped, and deployed along the demilitarized
zone in 1971 to replace withdrawing American units.

Operations Into Cambodia

Although commanders throughout Vietnam were placing pri­
mary emphasis on Vietnamization and the structure of the program
was taking shape, the American effort and the ability of Vietnamese
forces to absorb it had not had a significant test. The vehicle through
which the Vietnamese fighting potential could be tested and its
progress more reliably gauged was rapidly approaching in the
spring of 1970.
The sanctuaries and base areas established by the Communist
forces along the South Vietnam-Cambodia boundary had long
been a frustrating irritant to both American and Vietnamese mili­
tary leaders. (Map 20) Although the occupation of these areas by
the North Vietnamese was a flagrant violation of Cambodian neu­
trality, the position taken by Prince Sihanouk and his government
made it impossible to conduct operations across the border in an
effort to deny the enemy the free use of these sanctuaries. Sihanouk's
neutrality was flexible, ranging from open hostility toward South
Vietnam and her allies to a more agreeable tolerance of the North
Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. Over the years, this tolerance per­
mitted the establishment and maintenance of these base areas.
In the spring of 1970 the political atmosphere in Cambodia
changed drastically and erupted into violence, which culminated in
the overthrow of the Sihanouk regime. With the formation of the
Lon Nol administration, the attitude of the Cambodian government
changed completely; its hostility was directed away from the South
Vietnamese and against the Communists. This reversal of position
made possible the subsequent incursions into Cambodia.
Intelligence reports had been indicating a massive logistics
buildup in the Cambodian sanctuaries in the Military Region III
area for some time. Evidence was strong that the Communists were


planning a major offensive—possibly similar in intensity to the 1968

Tet offensive. In addition, military intelligence had pinpointed the
location of the Central Office of South Vietnam (COSVN), the ma­
jor North Vietnamese headquarters for South Vietnam, in the "Fish
Hook" region of Cambodia. The intent of the Cambodian incursion
was to forestall an enemy offensive, despoil the sanctuaries, and, if
possible, capture the Central Office. At the same time, the achieve­
ment of these objectives would so disrupt Communist plans and
capabilities that the Vietnamization program would greatly benefit
from the added time gained. /
South Vietnamese operations into Cambodia commenced on 14
April 1970 with several limited penetrations into the "Angel's
Wing" area. These penetrations were followed by a major Viet­
namese thrust launched on 29 April 1970. Operation TOAN THANG
42 (Rock Crusher) was initiated by the Vietnamese III Corps at­
tacking with three task forces into the Angel's Wing area and then
south into the "Parrot's Beak" area of Cambodia. (Map 21) Each
task force was supported by one battery of mixed 105-mm. howitzers
and augmented by U.S. self-propelled medium artillery as needed.
II Field Force Artillery supported the attack with six batteries of
medium and heavy artillery, intially deployed to the north and east


of the area of operations in order to provide maximum support for

the maneuver units. Liaison to further insure timely support was
established with all Vietnamese task forces, III Corps, and IV Corps.
All U.S. artillery fires in To AN THANG 42 were co-ordinated and
controlled by a forward element of the 23d Artillery Group, which
was collocated with the Vietnamese III Corps tactical operations
center at Go Dau Ha and later at Tay Ninh. During the latter
phases of this operation, two medium and two heavy batteries dis­
placed into Cambodia to keep pace with the rapidly moving Viet­
namese forces. These batteries provided close and continuous
support to the maneuver elements but were not allowed to displace
west of Svay Rieng, the westernmost limit of the politically imposed
U.S. operational boundary. As the operation progressed, two of the
task forces turned north to Prey Vang and the Chup Plantation.
On 27 April 1970, the 1st Cavalry Division was given the mission
of planning and executing a campaign to eliminate the North Viet­
namese base areas in the Fish Hook region of Cambodia adjacent to
Military Region III. (Map 22) To accomplish this mission, ele­
ments of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and the Vietnamese
1st Airborne Division were placed under the operational control of
the 1st Cavalry Division. Task Force SHOEMAKER was formed to
carry out the attack.
MAP 20



Note: All Locations And Sizes Of Bases

Are Approximate


MAP 21

The maneuver plan was simple and direct. The 3d Brigade of

the Vietnamese 1st Airborne Division would occupy blocking posi­
tions north of the objective area, and elements of the 1st Cavalry
Division and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment would make a
four-pronged attack from the south. Artillery would be provided
from all the elements involved in the attack, and additional fire
support would come from II Field Force Artillery units.
The fire support available was formidable and included the
largest concentration of artillery, tactical air strikes, and B-52


5 0 5 MILES

' ' I I '• , ' I I

6 0
. '




MAP 22
strikes committed in support of an operation of this size by the Free
World Military Assistance Forces in the Republic of Vietnam. The
fire support co-ordination planning required to support the opera­
tion was extremely complex and detailed. Initially, targeting infor­
mation was limited; however, after the operation was approved,
additional information became increasingly available from II Field
Force and Military Assistance Command sources. The bulk of the
fire planning was conducted during 27-29 April 1970. After the
basic fire support annex and artillery fire support appendix were
prepared, detailed co-ordination of fires with other fire support
assets was conducted. Care was taken to insure that the various fire
supports did not interfere with each other, times on target were ad­
justed to insure flight safety for ordnance-carrying aircraft, and de­
finitive air corridors were established. The annex and appendix
with target lists and overlays were distributed on 29 April for the
D-day H-hour fires and on 30 April for the planned fires in support
of subsequent phases of the operation.
Ninety-four cannon artillery pieces were positioned to support
the initial phases of the attack: thirty-six 105-mm. howitzers, forty-
eight 155-mm. howitzers, four 8-inch howitzers, and six 175-mm.
guns. The initial positioning of artillery took place during the pe­
riod 29 April-1 May 1970. By 30 April (D minus 1), the II Field

Force heavy and medium artillery, the direct support artillery for
the 3d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, and one Vietnamese airborne
artillery direct support battery were in position and prepared to
support the operation.
At 0600 on 1 May, D-day, an extensive 390-minute planned
artillery and air preparation was initiated. Beginning with the 0600
preparation fires, in support of elements of the 1st Airborne Divi­
sion, until the end of the preparation at 1245, a total of 2,436 artil­
lery rounds was fired. These fires were effectively integrated with
48 tactical airstrikes to complete the D-day preparations. Through­
out the morning tactical air and cannon and aerial field artillery
were simultaneously employed in the attack on multiple target
complexes. The total fire support delivered for D-day operations
included 185 tactical air sorties, 36 arc light missions, and 5,460
artillery rounds.
During the period 2-5 May, the detailed fire support planning
paid handsome dividends as many lucrative targets were engaged.
The heavy concentration of cannon artillery and flexible fire sup­
port co-ordination allowed fires to be massed again and again with
relative ease. Artillery moves to support advancing friendly forces
began on 2 May and were subsequently made whenever necessary to
insure continuous artillery coverage. II Field Force Artillery units
alone moved 198 times during the sixty-day operation to maintain
pace with the maneuver forces.
On 5 May plans were initiated for an expansion of operations in
Cambodia. As a result of the planned expansion, Task Force SHOE­
MAKER was dissolved and the responsibility for fire support co­
ordination was passed from the task force to the 1st Cavalry
With the initiation of Operation TOAN THANG 45 northeast of
Bu Dop by the 2d Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, in Base Area
354 by elements of the U.S. 25th Infantry Division, and in Base Area
350 by the Vietnamese 9th Regiment, fire support co-ordination
activities were expanded but did not change significantly from the
smooth-functioning procedures previously established. Positioning
II Field Force Artillery units centrally and well forward had facil­
itated the support of the additional maneuver units as they at­
tacked into Base Areas 354, 707, 350, and 351. Except for a few
batteries located in critical areas of III Corps, virtually all remain­
ing units of II Field Force Artillery were moved to the Cambodian
border or across it. During one three-day period, 32 artillery moves
were conducted to place the firing elements in the best positions to
support the expanded operations.
During the withdrawal phases of both TOAN THANG 43 and

TOAN THANG 45, extraction support plans were formulated to derive

maximum benefit from all available fire support. The purpose of
these plans was to deny the enemy access to the extraction sites and
air corridors. Like the fire plans that had been developed for the
conduct of the operation, the extraction support plans were compre­
hensive and effective. Each direct support artillery battalion
planned the extraction fires for the supported brigade, and the
division fire support co-ordination center co-operated closely with
the Vietnamese airborne division artillery commander to establish
the fire scheme for the withdrawal of the Vietnamese forces. These
plans were so effective that continuous fire was maintained around
the extraction sites and air corridors during the entire operation.
By 1800 on 29 June 1970, all American units were withdrawn from
At the same time that the well-publicized campaign across the
Cambodian border was kicking off in the Military Region III area,
the 4th Infantry Division, located in the central highlands of II
Corps Tactical Zone, received a warning order to be prepared to
conduct operations across the border into Base Area 702 to locate
and destroy enemy resources, installations, and command facilities.
Planning was initiated immediately for the two-brigade assault. Fire
support was provided by division artillery units reinforced by me­
dium and heavy elements of the 52d Artillery Group. Division artil­
lery established a forward tactical command post at New Plei
Djereng and, in conjunction with a permanent liaison party pro­
vided by the 52d Artillery Group, developed the fire support plan
for the operation, called BINH TAY I. Because South Vietnamese
elements were involved in the operation, it was necessary to form
the additional liaison parties to support Vietnamese units. A special
fire support team was established with the Special Forces and Civil­
ian Irregular Defense Group unit at New Plei Djereng to insure
timely clearance of fire requests. Firing units were positioned in
forward areas on 4 May 1970 to facilitate joining the maneuver
forces and reduce the time required to lift the units into the selected
fire support bases. After the planned occupation of the fire bases by
the light and medium artillery batteries, only one battery was re­
located within the base area. This move was required because of a
decision to increase the troop density in the 1st Brigade area of
operation. With this one exception, all artillery units remained in
their initial positions throughout the Cambodian operation. Al­
though artillery support of the operation was adequate, ammuni­
tion resupply problems hampered the total effectiveness of the
firing units. A temporary ammunition supply point was established
at New Plei Djereng; however, its stockage was not in accord with

the recommended stockage objective. A critical shortage was

avoided only because the initial combat assaults of the maneuver
forces were delayed one day.
Although significant amounts of material were captured and de­
stroyed, Operation BINH TAY I was less than a total success. Be­
cause of other commitments and operational requirements in II
Corps, 4th Division elements were withdrawn ten days after the
operation started and substantial areas were left unexploited. The
lack of air assets, both Army and Air Force, artillery resupply pro­
blems, and heavy initial contact severely hampered the efficiency of
the operation. Although Vietnamese forces continued to operate in
Base Area 702 until 25 May 1970, the major tactical effort was
complete with the withdrawal of the 1st Brigade units on 16 May.
The Cambodian incursion was an overwhelming success both in
materiel captured or destroyed and the artillery rounds expended
in support of the operation. During the two-month assault, friendly
units expended 847,558 rounds of which 261,039 were fired by Viet­
namese artillery units. Reported surveillance credited artillery
units with 253 killed and 70 bunkers and 20 tunnel systems de­
stroyed. Surprisingly, all artillery kills were reported by Vietnamese
sources and 230 were reported as a result of the preparation fires
that initiated the operation. The 1st Cavalry Division, in whose
area of operations 708,965 rounds were fired by both U.S. and Viet­
namese field artillery, did not credit the artillery with any kills or
any bunker or tunnel destructions.
The Cambodian operation measured in terms of Vietnamiza­
tion showed that weaknesses in Vietnamese fire support techniques
still existed. Vietnamese artillery was not employed to its full effec­
tiveness by task force commanders. Repeatedly, these commanders
waited too long for tactical air, gunships, and light fire team support
when direct support artillery was within range and ready to pro­
vide immediate fire. Throughout the operation, task force comman­
ders called for tactical aircraft and light fire team strikes without
regard to the nature of the target being engaged. Often, light fire
teams were called to engage well-fortified positions—targets better
suited for artillery engagement. This failure to expeditiously en­
gage the enemy materially reduced the effectiveness of the combat
mission. Often, Vietnamese artillery liaison officers and forward ob­
servers were not properly utilized. On numerous occasions the ma­
neuver element commanders personally adjusted artillery fire and
Vietnamese Air Force air strikes although trained observers were
available. On several occasions, Vietnamese fire support officers
were intimidated by their supported unit commanders to the extent
that they would not approach the commanders with recommenda­

tions on the use of artillery. These failings resulted in lowering the

effectiveness of the fire support and removed the commanders from
their more immediate responsibilities of command. In addition,
some co-ordination and, liaison problems emerged between U.S. and
Vietnamese forces. These problems were most acute whenever U.S.
units were under the operational control of Vietnamese commands,
and the difficulties manifested themselves in displacement, emplace­
ment, and security arrangements. At times, slow reaction by the
responsible Vietnamese headquarters in target clearance matters
hampered the ability of the American artillery units to provide
responsive fire support to elements in contact.
One of the most significant successes of the Cambodian incur­
sion was really a byproduct of the action. With Vietnamese troops
committed in such large numbers to the operation, territorial se­
curity became the primary responsibility of the Regional and Pop­
ular Forces. Their reaction to the challenge was surprisingly good
and, more important, the confidence they gained from their succes­
ses served as a valuable psychological boost.

Toward Vietnamese Self-Sufficiency

With the termination of the Cambodian operation, primary at­
tention was returned to Vietnamization. The performance of Viet­
namese units during the recent campaign was carefully scrutinized,
their strengths and weaknesses were analyzed, and emphasis was
placed on those areas in which improvement was necessary. It also
became apparent that the ability of ARVN artillery units to sup­
port maneuver forces adequately was substandard. Although the
deployment of territorial artillery, as projected and approved by
Military Assistance Command, was considered the ultimate answer,
it was evident that, because of the physical limitation of training
and equipping them, these platoons could not deploy rapidly
enough to release Vietnamese artillery units to provide standard
tactical support. At the same time, the redeployment of American
artillery was progressing so rapidly that the "repositioning tactic"
employed earlier in the year was losing its validity. It became ap­
parent that immediate stopgap measures were required. More and
more senior artillery commanders admitted that the platooning of
American artillery for extended periods of time to increase area
coverage was the best solution. Though it had been common prac­
tice in Vietnam to separate U.S. batteries into platoon positions,
the practice had been viewed as a short-term expedient only. In
the fall of 1970, Brigadier General Thomas J. McGuire, I Field
Force Artillery commander, summed up the feeling of most artil­

lery commanders when he said, " . . . even though US artillery is

prepared to respond rapidly by moving and shooting to destroy the
enemy, we are prepared to replace ARVN artillery platoons and
batteries which are on LOC [lines of communication] missions so
that these ARVN batteries may move with the ARVN maneuver
elements and support them on operations."
This tactic became standard procedure for American artillery
units during the latter phases of the war. It also magnified the
myriad problems that had plagued Vietnamese artillerymen when
they platooned their guns. U.S. commanders found that the pro­
blems—command and control, technical proficiency, maintenance,
and apathetic personnel—they had attributed to the "personality"
of the oriental were, in fact, the result of the fragmented employ­
ment of artillery units. Diminishing assets made logistical support
of these subunits difficult, the lack of qualified fire direction person­
nel limited the efficiency of the platoons, the absence of well-defined
missions caused morale problems, and battery commanders were
often out of touch with major parts of their units.
To offset diminishing long-range fire capabilities, heavy artil­
lery raids were planned and conducted frequently. These raids nor­
mally were co-ordinated: the targets were carefully planned, the
ammunition was quickly fired, and the guns were returned to their
normal positions.
By the end of the year, the Vietnamese artillery posture had
increased substantially and further deployments were planned. A
total of 1,116 tubes were providing artillery support throughout
the country.


Units Authorized Activated Deployed

105-mm. battalion (divisional) 30 30 30

105-mm. battalion (airborne) 3 3 3
105-mm. battalion (separate) 7 7 7
155-mm. battalion (divisional) 10 10 10
155-mm. battalion (separate) 5 5 5
175-mm. battalion (separate) 2 0 0
Sector artillery platoon (105-mm.) 176 100 53

With the approval of Project ENHANCE in the fall of 1970, XXIV

Corps was directed to prepare a comprehensive training program
for presentation to cadre personnel of the 101st Artillery Battalion,
the first Vietnamese 175-mm. gun unit scheduled for activation.

Corps artillery began this mission by carefully scrutinizing the com­

position of the proposed unit to insure that each facet of 175-mm.
gun employment received sufficient coverage in the program of in­
struction. Added emphasis was placed on maintenance, since this
was to be the initial experience of ARVN forces with self-propelled
artillery. Meteorological training received special consideration
because, by tables of organization and equipment, the Vietnamese
gun battalions were assigned meteorological teams. In early 1971
the program of instruction was approved, and the schooling of six­
teen Vietnamese cadres began on 15 March 1971. On 19 April cadre
training was completed and the general instruction of troops initia­
ted. Fire direction and firing battery procedures were taught at Fire
Support Base CARROLL, meteorology was taught at Fire Support
Base NANCY,, and driver and maintenance procedures were
taught at numerous locations throughout Military Region I. Al­
though instruction was conducted by the newly trained cadres,
American experts were available to supervise and advise as neces­
sary. Deployment of the first 175-mm. gun unit was scheduled for
July-August 1971.
The year 1971 brought another shift in the Vietnamization con­
cept. Since the promulgation of the Vietnamization program in No­
vember 1969, the basis for Vietnamization had been training
programs and combined operations conceived and controlled by
Americans. By 1971, the American troop strength in Vietnam had
been halved and it became apparent that the capability of U.S.
units to directly support training programs was fast diminishing.
At the same time, American commanders felt that if Vietnamese
forces were to become self-reliant, they would have to provide the
training impetus for themselves. Assistance was offered only as
needed and required. This shift in policy produced some hopeful
indications as the Vietnamese began to assume the initiative in
meeting most of their requirements.
In 1971, Military Assistance Command reviewed the Vietnam­
ization program and divided it into three phases:
Phase I—Turn over ground combat responsibilities to the Re­
public of Vietnam Armed Forces.
Phase II—Develop air, naval, artillery, logistics, and other sup­
port capabilities of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces to the
degree that effective independent security can be maintained.
Phase III—Reduce the American artillery presence to a mili­
tary advisory mission and, finally, withdraw as the South Vietnamese
become capable of handling the Communist threat without U.S.
military assistance.
Although these phases were rather definitively stated, work was

being done in both Phases I and II because it was impossible to

achieve any success in the first phase without substantial gains in
the second.
Having examined and approved the feasibility of providing self-
propelled 175-mm. guns to Vietnamese forces, Military Assistance
Command began studies relative to the turnover of self-propelled
155-mm. howitzers. The concept called for the activation of three
battalions armed with the Ml09 howitzers. The study was continued
until 23 August 1971, when General Abrams informed General
Vien, Chief of the Vietnamese Joint General Staff, that the activa­
tion of the three new battalions was not feasible and that " . . . in­
troduction of this new weapon into ARVN will overtax the training
base and the logistics system, which is not now prepared to cope
with the maintenance difficulties presented by this weapon . . ."
Meanwhile, in January 1971 U.S. and ARVN commands
planned an operation across the border into Laos from Quang Tri
Province in northern Military Region I. Both U.S. and South Viet­
namese intelligence estimates had strongly indicated that the
enemy was preparing to conduct an intensified resupply and rein­
forcement operation in southern Laos as well as to build up sup­
plies and equipment in Military Region I. Sources estimated enemy
strength across the Quang Tri Province border to be 13,000 line
and 9,000 support troops. In view of the successful Cambodian sanc­
tuary operations of 1970, the logical tactical follow-up would be an
effort to disrupt North Vietnamese supply and reinforcement op­
The operation, termed LAM SON 719 and commanded by the
commanding general of the Vietnamese I Corps, did not call for the
employment of American ground forces in Laos. However, U.S. air
assets augmented the South Vietnamese Air Force in supporting
ground operations. To permit a greater Vietnamese effort, Ameri­
can ground units provided extensive ground support in northwest­
ern Quang Tri Province.
U.S. and Vietnamese forces estimated a four-phase offensive:
Phase I—U.S. units would open fire bases in Khe Sanh Plateau
and secure Route 9 as well as staging areas and artillery positions
from which to support subsequent operations.
Phase II—Vietnamese forces would attack into Laos on three
axes, with the major axis along Route 9. Attacks would carry no
further west than Tchepone, about thirty kilometers into Laos.
Phase III—Gains would be consolidated.
Phase IV—Friendly forces would be extracted.
Planning for the employment of U.S. artillery to support Phase
I was extensive. Although ARVN maneuver units had their own

light and medium artillery, they needed augmentation by heavy

U.S. artillery operating from the border. To this end, fire support
was planned between the I Corps fire support element and the
XXIV U.S. Corps fire support element through I Corps Artillery,
the I Corps G-3, and the I Corps Artillery adviser. In addition,
plans included co-ordination with the 108th U.S. Artillery Group,
the control headquarters for heavy U.S. artillery.
The 108th Artillery Group consisted of the 8th Battalion, 4th
Field Artillery, and the 2d Battalion, 94th Field Artillery, each
with four 8-inch howitzers and eight 175-mm. guns, as well as Bat­
tery B, 1st Battalion, 39th Field Artillery, with four 175-mm. guns.
The 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery, 101st Airborne
Division, was also available to support the operation and, being an
air asset, was not restricted by borders. Three 175-mm. batteries
and one 8-inch battery were situated along the Laos-Vietnam border.
The remaining batteries were set up in the Khe Sanh area.
Phase I, dubbed Operation DEWEY CANYON, proceeded without
a significant hitch. However, subsequent phases, which were to be
conducted primarily by Vietnamese forces, went awry. Plans called
for the Vietnamese 1st Airborne Division to conduct an airmobile
attack all the way to Tchepone. At the same time, the Vietnamese
1st Armored Brigade was to attack along Route 9 and link up with
the airborne division to open up necessary supply lines. Unfortu­
nately, the armored brigade did not fulfill its mission. It could
neither advance with sufficient speed to provide a timely linkup nor
keep the route to its rear open. Supplies to the airborne force had
to be moved by air against intensive enemy antiaircraft fires. The
consolidation phase ended quickly and extraction began in haste.
Enemy pressure forced the abandonment of equipment, including
artillery pieces. Notwithstanding the loss of equipment, statistics
were quite impressive in favor of Vietnamese forces. Over 19,360
enemy were killed in action whereas ARVN forces sustained 1,749
In terms of Vietnamization, LAM SON 719 again pointed out
Vietnamese weaknesses, particularly the inability of units to co­
ordinate fire support. Without the assistance of U.S. advisers, who
had been left behind, the South Vietnamese displayed a marked de­
ficiency in requesting and controlling artillery and tactical air. Weap­
ons were poorly matched to targets, air strikes were often requested
for targets more suitable for artillery, and aerial field artillery was
often requested to attack targets beyond its capabilities. So inef­
ficient was the fire support co-ordination system that in most cases
maneuver units abandoned the procedures and sent fire requests
directly to fire support elements.

1972 Enemy Offensive

In mid-1971, shortly after the conclusion of LAM SON 719,
Military Assistance Command redeployed the 1st Brigade of the 5th
Infantry Division and thus removed the last American maneuver
unit from the demilitarized zone. Artillery units of the 108th Artil­
lery Group, however, remained because Vietnamese forces still
desperately needed artillery assets. To fill the void created by the
withdrawal of the American forces, the Joint General Staff acti­
vated the Vietnamese Division. This unit was a conglomeration of
independent units already operating in Military Region I and newly
created units still being trained and outfitted. Artillery elements
taken from I Corps Artillery assets and redesignated the 30th and
32d Artillery Battalions supported the newly created division. Of
these, the 30th Artillery Battalion was a 155-mm. howitzer unit. The
third direct support element, the 33d Artillery Battalion, was acti­
vated on 1 December 1971. Unit training was to start 17 January
1972, and field deployment was scheduled for 1 April 1972.
Over-all, 1971 was a wait-and-see year. More and more respon­
sibility was given to Vietnamese units, and their performance was
evaluated. Although operationally their performance was spotty,
there were some hopeful indicators. Territorial artillery assumed
greater fire support responsibilities, and by year's end 100 platoons
had been deployed; the Artillery School continued to revamp and
upgrade its program to include initiation of the artillery officer's
advanced course in August; and in some divisions, the artillery be­
gan to assume traditional support roles and develop habitual sup­
port relationships with the maneuver regiments. By December,
deployed Vietnamese artillery strength had increased to 1,202 tubes
of various calibers, including twelve 175-mm. guns.


Unit Authorized Activated Deployed

105-mm. battalion (divisional) 33 33 32

105-mm. battalion (separate) 5 5 5
105-mm. battalion (airborne) 3 3 3
155-mm. battalion (divisional) 11 11 11
155-mm. battalion (separate) 4 4 4
175-mm. battalion (separate) 2 2 1
Sector artillery platoon (105-mm.) 176 135 100

By mid-December 1971, intelligence sources were beginning to


note increased enemy activity along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and in
the demilitarized zone area of Vietnam. As this buildup continued
and a pattern of sorts developed, American and Vietnamese com­
manders began warning their commands to prepare for a major
enemy offensive commencing with the Tet holidays in mid-
February. As the pulse of enemy movements picked up through
January 1972, commanders increased vigilance and expected heavy
action to erupt with the Vietnamese new year. American leaders
believed that the expected offensive would be the greatest test of
Vietnamization, perhaps with the preservation of the entire nation
at stake. Wary eyes studied the demilitarized zone. If a major attack
materialized, the untested 3d Division would have to bear the brunt
of the righting.
Tet passed with no significant increase in enemy action. Allied
commanders continued to expect an attack, but the vigilance and
readiness established for the holidays could not be maintained. As
the days after Tet slipped by without action, the nervous edge of
the troops faded and daily routine returned to normal. Then on 30
March 1972 the North Vietnamese launched an infantry-armor at­
tack through the east central portion of the demilitarized zone
against the fire bases defended by elements of the 3d Division.
With this attack, the Nguyen Hue offensive started. The North
Vietnamese units quickly routed the defending forces and slashed
forward toward Dong Ha. South Vietnamese forces fled in the face
of the onslaught, and Dong Ha fell with little resistance. Farther
south in Military Region I, the North Vietnamese attacked east
from Laos and by 14 April had captured Fire Support Base
BASTOGNE and were threatening Hue. Meanwhile, in Military Re­
gion III, Communist forces launched their An Loc campaign on
I April by overrunning Fire Support Base PACE, 35 kilometers
northwest of Tay Ninh city. On 5 April, the North Vietnamese
attacked Loc Ninh and controlled the city by the next morning.
The withdrawing South Vietnamese forces suffered continual at­
tacks and sustained heavy casualties as they moved south on Route
13. By this time General Minh, commander of III Corps, realized
that the main enemy effort would be in Binh Long Province and
quickly reinforced An Loc. On 10 April, the anticipated offensive
began. The North Vietnamese 9th Division, supported by armor
elements, attacked An Loc.
In Military Region II, the initial enemy action was limited to
increased harrassing tactics, interdiction of Route 14 at the Kontum
Pass, and the successful closing of the An Khe Pass on Route 19 on
II April 1972.
Action in the Mekong Delta was negligible.

Early in the offensive, some of the objectives of the co-ordinated

attacks throughout the Republic of Vietnam became apparent:
1. To divide the national reserves and force piecemeal and,
therefore, indecisive commitment of these forces.
2. To give the impression of greater strength by attacking on
several "fronts."
3. To promote a lack of decisiveness on a South Vietnamese
command structure faced with few clearcut options and several omi­
nous potential situations.
4. To encourage widespread dissatisfaction with the govern­
ment of Vietnam by demonstrating its inability to protect its people.
The strategy of the enemy in attaining these objectives centered
on the provincial capitals. These cities or towns were focal points
because of, first, their governmental prominence; second, their rela­
tive isolation; and, third, their comparatively weak defenses. It also
became clear that the ultimate objective of the North Vietnamese
was the capture of Quang Tri, Qui Nhon, Kontum, An Loc, Tay
Ninh, and, because of its psychological importance as the historical
and cultural center of Vietnam, Hue. The loss of these cities could
well have precipitated the collapse of the South Vietnam govern­
The first two weeks of the offensive were disastrous for the
South Vietnamese forces. Throughout the country they experienced
heavy personnel losses, had to face infantry and armor attacks in
significant numbers for the first time, and, often, especially in Mili­
tary Region I, found themselves outgunned by enemy artillery.
During the first ten days of the Nguyen Hue offensive, South Viet­
namese units lost 81 105-mm. howitzers, 32 155-mm. howitzers, and
4 175-mm. guns. Most of their losses were due to reliance on air­
craft for fire base evacuation and the inability of the aircraft to do
the job because of enemy artillery. In Military Region I, the 30th
and 31st Artillery Battalions of the 3d Division lost all their guns
and the 33d Artillery Battalion escaped similar fate only because it
was still in training and only partially deployed. Still, the 33d man­
aged to lose 2 of its guns. All the fire support bases north and west
of Dong Ha were overrun and the artillery positioned there was
captured or destroyed. Artillery losses throughout the remainder
of South Vietnam were fewer only because units were more widely
Throughout April and May the North Vietnamese Army con­
tinued to apply pressure along all the fronts. In Military Region I,
enemy units attacked and captured Quang Tri in early May. In
Military Region II, the drive in the highlands began on 23 April.
In quick succession Fire Support Bases 5 and 6, Tanh Canh, and


Caliber Unit Military Region Number

105-mm Marines I 16
105-mm 31st Field Artillery Battalion I 18
105-mm 33d Field Artillery Battalion I 2
105-mm 14th Field Artillery Battalion I 5
105-mm 22d Field Artillery Battalion I 6
155-mm 30th Field Artillery Battalion I 18
175-mm 101st Field Artillery Battalion I 4

155-mm 220th Field Artillery Battalion II 2

155-mm 37th Field Artillery Battalion II 2

105-mm 51st Field Artillery Battalion III 2

105-mm 53d Field Artillery Battalion III 12
105-mm 52d Field Artillery Battalion III 4
105-mm 182d Field Artillery Battalion III 6
105-mm Ranger Border Camp III 2
155-mm 50th Field Artillery Battalion III 8

105-mm 91st Field Artillery Battalion IV 1

105-mm 211th Field Artillery Battalion IV 2
105-mm 213th Field Artillery Battalion IV 1
105-mm 419th Field Artillery Platoon IV 2
105-mm 449th Field Artillery Platoon IV 2
155-mm 90th Field Artillery Battalion IV 2

Dak To fell and northwestern Kontum Province was in enemy

hands. In Military Region III, An Loc remained under pressure,
Dau Tieng suffered attacks, and the interdiction of Route 13 con­
As these actions occurred, South Vietnamese forces began to re­
group. They stiffened their resistance to enemy pressure and, with
the aid of massive air support, including large numbers of B-52
arc light strikes, slowed the momentum of the enemy thrust. Dur­
ing May the action began to stabilize as ARVN forces established a
defensive line along the My Chanh River in Military Region I,
stopped the enemy at Kontum, and stubbornly resisted at An Loc.
Although enemy pressure remained great throughout May, the
thrust of the offensive had been blunted. Once checked, the North
Vietnamese attack never regained its force. Throughout the coun­
teroffensive that followed, opportune application of artillery and
air power prohibited enemy buildups and attacks.
The late May stabilization permitted South Vietnamese com­
manders to scrutinize carefully the over-all situation and take ap­

propriate actions. When it became apparent that An Loc and

Kontum would not fall, they turned their attention to planning a
counteroffensive in Military Region I to recapture Quang Tri Prov­
Whereas the actions around both Kontum and An Loc were
monuments to air power, the counterattack out of the My Chanh
River line proceeded along conventional lines. The purpose of the
counterattack, dubbed Operation LAM SON 72, was to provide a de­
fense for Hue, secure the Quang Tri and Dong Ha area, and de­
stroy enemy forces and restore government control to Quang Tri
Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces limited their operations
during most of June to repositioning of forces, probing attacks to
test enemy strengths, and cover and deception activities. Then, on
28 June, the counterattack began. The Airborne Division con­
ducted the main attack west of Route 1 in the direction of La Vong
and Quang Tri. The Marine Division conducted the supporting at­
tack along Route 555 in the direction of Trien Phong and Quang
Tri. Initial progress was slow but steady. South Vietnamese forces
met only moderate resistance. As they approached the Thach Han
River, however, enemy reaction stiffened. By the time the Airborne
Division had reached the outskirts of Quang Tri city on 7 July, it
was clear that the enemy intended to hold the city at all costs. The
counterattack ground to a halt. Although the initial plan called for
Quang Tri to be bypassed, recapture of the city now became an
emotional national objective. On 27 July, the boundary between
the Airborne and Marine Divisions was shifted and the more heavily
equipped marines were given the mission of taking the city. The air­
borne troopers were ordered to secure the Thach Han River line,
seize Fire Support Base BARBARA, block enemy supply routes from
the west, and secure Route 1—the corps main supply line.
Success during August continued to be limited, and it was not
until early September that the final phase of the Quang Tri battle
began. Then the marines launched the final push against the citadel
within the city. Progress was slow and costly in the face of deter­
mined enemy resistance, but on 11 September 1972 the marines
succeeded in breaching the citadel wall. After heavy fighting at
close quarters for five days, the marines gained control of the citadel
on 16 September and by nightfall on the 17th the city belonged to
the Marine Division. Activity now shifted to the area of operation
of the Airborne Division as they drove to capture Fire Support Base
BARBARA. Their efforts were hampered by heavy attacks by fire and
deteriorating weather as the October monsoon began to bring its
heavy rains. However, by the end of October the fire support base

was recaptured and the major tasks of the counter offensive were
The employment of artillery in support of the counteroffensive
in Military Region I gradually evolved from the fire base concept to
conventional tactics. This change resulted from the introduction of
122-mm. and 130-mm. artillery weapons by the enemy and the ef­
fective use of these weapons against fixed fire bases. Although ar­
tillery contributed extensively to the success of the combat
operations, poor artillery procedures were evident in all units. The
failure to survey, register, and apply meteorological data and the
use of improper ammunition-handling procedures reduced the ac­
curacy of artillery fire. Further, a tendency to substitute massive
unobserved fires for less intense observed fires resulted in excessive
ammunition expenditure rates. At the same time, the development
of the I Corps fire support element at Hue during May 1972
enabled the corps, for the first time, to integrate all U.S. and Viet­
namese fire support means. The fire support element worked ex­
tremely well and contributed substantially to the success of the
corps operation.

Problems During Phase-Down of U.S. Forces

The massive emphasis given so suddenly to Vietnamization
caused a variety of feelings among the Republic of Vietnam Armed
Forces leaders. These feelings became more and more verbal in
early 1970. In connection with an assessment of the Vietnamiza­
tion effort, II Field Force, Vietnam, indicated:
To most senior ARVN Commanders, Vietnamization has provided
the motivation . . . to assume the responsibility for the defense of their
country in as short a time as possible. Many of these responsible indi­
viduals also express concern lest the Vietnamization process move too
rapidly, leaving them to face a determined and waiting enemy before
they are fully ready. Other responsible ARVN officers are optimistic
about ARVN combat units taking over now . . . but they emphasize
the continued need for U.S. combat support (helicopter, artillery, etc.)
and logistics support . . . until these ARVN capabilities are fully
built up.

Even as Vietnamese leaders were expressing anxiety over the

relatively high speed of the Vietnamization programs, American
commanders began experiencing operational difficulties caused by
redeployments, stand-downs, and space reductions. To counter these
problems, comprehensive studies were conducted to discern the
most efficient utilization of the remaining assets. These studies re­
vealed gaps in artillery coverage, poor utilization of heavy artillery

capability, and unsatisfactory positioning of light artillery. The best

example of the results of such a study was Operation METRO MEDIA
executed by I Field Force Artillery. Between January and March
1970, over seventeen sequential and co-ordinated complete reloca­
tions of artillery battalion headquarters and subordinate elements
were conducted. The moves resulted in I Field Force Artillery
assets being positioned most effectively to accomplish the required
support mission. Better utilization of the long-range capability of
heavy artillery was realized and a quick reaction artillery force was
created in the central portion of Military Region II.
Further problems were generated by the actual redeployment
of artillery units. Since withdrawal plans and Vietnamization pro­
grams did not emanate from the same source, more often than not
the administrative considerations of stand-down clashed with the
tactical requirements of the commands affected by redeployment.
Often, artillery coverage was not immediately available to replace
that provided by the recalled elements and a short-fuzed shuffle of
the remaining artillery assets ensued. This tended to lower the effec­
tiveness of offensive operations because of the lack of adquate fire
support. The withdrawal of the 9th Infantry Division from Military
Region IV is a good example of this loss of fire power. The move­
ment of the division from the Mekong Delta caused an immediate
loss of three artillery battalions. Even when all the artillery with
the Vietnamese 7th Division became operational, there was a net
loss of two artillery battalions, and the addition of two battalions to
IV Corps assets was insufficient to upgrade the artillery posture of
the upper delta without affecting other portions of IV Corps Tac­
tical Zone. Additional hardships resulted from the lack of experi­
ence by which to gauge the time requirements of stand-down. The
effort to insure optimum artillery coverage for the longest time often
placed inordinately heavy administrative requirements on the re­
deploying units.
The time squeeze was most apparent in personnel matters, in
which transfers within the country and tour completion require­
ments posed difficulties. In addition, early stand-down cut into the
active artillery posture, forced hasty repositioning, and at times
affected offensive operations in progress. At the same time, early
stand-down caused administrative problems by leaving units with
no equipment, no mission, and no motivation—a situation ready
made for racial tensions, drug incidents, and morale problems.
An additional problem that affected artillery units was the far-
flung deployment of some firing elements. This widespread po­
sitioning prevented the battalion headquarters from effectively
controlling the stand-down of their batteries. To overcome this situ­

ation, higher headquarters directed battalions in the same locale as

the isolated unit to assist the battery during stand-down operations.
The assisting battalion was not staffed to absorb the added work
As redeployment progressed the experience factors were estab­
lished, most of the administrative hardships were overcome, and a
general system was developed. The tactical difficulties, however,
remained and often grew. Because of the technical and personnel
limitations, Vietnamization in certain areas of the country lagged
behind the pace of the American withdrawal programs.
With the introduction of tube artillery by the enemy during the
Nguyen Hue offensive, the weakness of South Vietnamese target
acquisition means and counterbattery techniques became apparent.
This inability to produce lucrative artillery targets was compounded
by the consistent ability of enemy artillery to outrange South Viet­
namese artillery and thus make counterbattery fires almost impos­
sible. To offset this weakness the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill
sent target assistance teams to Vietnam to aid in "target acquisition,
with emphasis on the counterbattery program." The teams arrived
in Vietnam on 21 May 1972 and deployed to the field two days later.
Their success depended on the specific needs of each South Viet­
namese division: its mission, its degree of involvement with the
North Vietnamese offensive, and the attitude of its commanders.
The teams were fairly successful in helping to establish counter-
battery intelligence centers, especially in I Corps where units were
heavily committed to combat operations against North Vietnamese


Weapon Supplying Country

M46 130-mm. field gun Soviet Union, Peoples Republic of China
D74 122-mm. field gun Soviet Union
M38 122-mm. howitzer Soviet Union, Peoples Republic of China
A19 122-mm. corps gun Soviet Union
M44 10O-mm. field gun Soviet Union
D44 85-mm. field gun Soviet Union
ZIS3 76-mm. field gun Soviet Union

The following results highlighted some of the target acquisition

efforts of the target assistance teams and South Vietnamese units:
the 18th Division acquired 178 confirmed targets over a seventeen-
day period; the 21st Division destroyed 6 howitzers; the 22d Divi­
sion destroyed 2 howitzers; and I Corps destroyed 11 130-mm. guns,
2 122-mm. weapons, and ammunition storage.

However, the main source of targeting information concerning

hostile armor and artillery weapons continued to come from air­
borne visual and electronic observation conducted by U.S. Army and
Air Force resources.
More telling of the state of Vietnamization was the report of the
target assistance teams. The Vietnamese Artillery School, the report
concluded, performed "its mission in an outstanding manner" and
its curriculum incorporated sufficient instruction in target acquisi­
tion. "The inadequacies in the proper employment of counterbat­
tery tactics and techniques appeared to be generated in the field."
Units such as the Vietnamese 25th and 1st Divisions had personnel
knowledgeable in counterbattery procedures but saw no need to
employ counterbattery tactics and techniques. They entertained,
the teams reported, "no real sense of urgency." This neglect led to
deterioration and eventual inability to employ effective counter-
battery programs. The teams observed that the units required
"strong ARVN command emphasis with corresponding advisory
followup." The solution, then, seemed to lie not with more in­
struction but with constant supervision. Here, in microcosm, was
the dilemma of the entire Vietnamization program. U.S. Army,
Vietnam, units had to support maneuver elements and simultane­
ously supply the drive behind Vietnamization. Personnel prob­
lems alone often destined the latter task to be secondary. And,
without full-time support, the Vietnamese failed to perceive the
necessity of certain procedures. Consequently, they remained de­
pendent on American aid.
The teams also provided valuable information concerning North
Vietnamese Army artillery employment methods. Their analysis
indicated that the North Vietnamese artillerymen were extremely
professional and capable. The gunners generally fired at optimum
range and preferred to mass widely separate pieces in surprise fires.
Their ability to utilize artillery in this manner indicated that they
surveyed gun positions, established effective communication systems,
and exercised centralized control of fires.
On the other hand, the target assistance teams found that South
Vietnamese artillerymen still ignored basic requirements necessary
for effective fire support. ARVN artillery units did not conduct
registrations and limited survey functions to utilize the existing
survey established by American units prior to redeployment. More­
over, all South Vietnamese units except the 1st Division ignored
meteorological data. For these reasons, it became apparent that al­
though artillery fires normally were available, Vietnamese comman­
ders preferred to call on tactical air assets to neutralize targets.
Although the Nguyen Hue offensive remained in the forefront

throughout most of 1972, Vietnamization continued. During Au­

gust, September, and October, the activation of three 175-mm. gun
battalions marked the completion of the Project ENHANCE schedule.
The Army of the Republic of Vietnam projected the employment of
these battalions in Military Regions I, II, and III. Of these units,
the 104th Artillery Battalion was the first to receive guns supplied
directly from the United States rather than guns transferred within
the country from departing American units.
The South Vietnamese Artillery School initiated a systems en­
gineering approach in the structuring of programs of instruction. A
thorough program of briefings and discussion insured that key per­
sonnel understood the systems engineering concept and that con­
tinuity would be maintained if key personnel were transferred. The
school added classes in crater analysis and target acquisition for
cadre personnel from the various branch schools and training cen­
ters throughout Vietnam. These classes were to be a base for
similar courses at these various places.
Facilities at the Artillery School remained inadequate. There
were only fourteen classrooms. When these were filled, classes were
held in other facilities or on the parade field. The school submitted
a compound improvement construction plan to V Area Logistics
Command on four occasions, the last in October 1972, but received
no replies.
A revised table of organization and equipment would have in­
creased the instructor force level adequately to support the student
population. Submitted some eighteen months before, the new table
had still not been approved in late 1972.
Despite these shortcomings, the school managed to provide the
basic training required to establish the foundation for South Viet­
namese artillery. On 20-21 December 1972, the Field Liaison Di­
rectorate, Liaison and Inspection Team, evaluated the school and
gave it a good rating.
From October 1972 until the cease-fire in early 1973, the entire
scope of the war changed. As peace rumors increased, combat action
rose. Both sides began final "land-grabbing and flag-raising opera­
tions." Vietnamization became primarily a logistical exercise in an
attempt to stockpile as much equipment in Vietnam as possible.
For all practical purposes, the active Vietnamization program had
With the signing of the cease-fire on 25 February 1973 and its
effective date on 28 February 1973, the United States involvement
in Vietnam came to an end. During the last three years of that in­
volvement, efforts were concentrated on preparing the Vietnamese
to defend their country without active American participation. An

assessment of that effort would show that despite the adoption of

program after program to assist ARVN forces in becoming profi­
cient in all phases of fire support, little improvement was to be
seen in combat. The Ben Het-Dak To Campaign in 1969 pointed
out weaknesses in fire support co-ordination, adjustment of fire,
and clearance procedures. One year later the same weaknesses ap­
peared during the Cambodian incursion. The LAM SON 719 opera­
tion in 1971 did not change the picture, and the Nguyen Hue
campaign during 1972 added technical shortcomings to the fire co­
ordination weaknesses noted in the earlier actions. In addition, sur­
veys conducted throughout Vietnam during the period continued to
show that Vietnamese forces ignored advanced gunnery procedures.
In retrospect, it is apparent that in almost all the field artillery
programs that were cited as successful during the Vietnamization
period, American units were actively involved, providing labor and
material. The Vietnamese were merely recipients of a service. It can
be argued that by providing the major impetus to the Vietnamiza­
tion program the Americans doomed the program to marginal suc­
cess at best. By providing services to the Vietnamese, the argument
would go, the American command failed to involve the Vietnamese
actively and therefore failed to teach them how to perform the work
themselves or convince them of the program's value.
But the American command was in a quandary. Senior com­
manders were certainly intelligent enough to foresee the disad­
vantages of allowing American units to do the work while the
Vietnamese sat idjy by. On the other hand, much had to be ac­
complished in a short time. Any adviser could attest to the fact that
it took time to convince ARVN commanders that an improvement
was needed and to show them how to carry it out. If U.S. programs
were to be successful, they would at least have to be implemented
and, restricted by time, Americans would have to furnish the major
impetus. Then the Vietnamese could at least be exposed to those
techniques necessary to provide the best fire support possible. With
American air power denied them, Vietnamese forces would turn
more and more to their artillery to fill the gap in fire power. To
provide this support, the artillery hopefully would be forced to uti­
lize the techniques to which they were exposed during Vietnamiza­
tion. Whether in fact they do is, of course, the question.

An Overview

Work To Be Done
The U.S. Army's experience in Vietnam showed that develop­
ments and refinements in Army doctrine, organization, and materiel
must help to realize the maximum effectiveness of American fire
power in future conflicts. A major effort of the Army will continue
to be devoted to fighting a conventional war because the greatest
threat to national survival is recognized as coming from the Soviet
bloc and Warsaw Pact countries. Priority must go to training, or­
ganizing, and equipping U.S. forces to fight on the terrain of fully
developed countries against a sophisticated, armor-heavy enemy. But
placing emphasis on preparing for one type of war will not neces­
sarily preclude preparing for others, since many of the important
needs of the Army in the areas of field artillery materiel and doc­
trinal development are equally applicable to the armor-heavy con­
ventional war and to the counterguerrilla threat.
The primary emphasis of U.S. field artillery in training will be
on survival on the modern battlefield, planning fires more quickly,
and shooting faster because the gravity and intensity of future com­
bat will require immediate response. To suppress enemy fires imme­
diately will, in the long run, better accomplish the mission of close,
continuous, and timely fire support to the maneuver forces. As
discussed in Chapter V, the success of U.S. artillery fire at Khe Sanh,
where rounds were "on the way" in forty seconds, is ample testi­
mony to this fact. In Vietnam the field artillery, for reasons cited in
earlier chapters, was not always responsive. While the Army may
again be required to operate under strict rules of engagement, it is
also developing new techniques, doctrine, target acquisition equip­
ment, and extended range weapons, and is re-emphasizing the fire
support mission as a vital part of the combined arms team. All of
these new developments have one purpose—to make field artillery
responsive. The field artillery was often accused of being too slow
and unresponsive in Vietnam because to achieve the accuracy de­
manded in many cases, double and triple checks were cranked into

the fire support process. The more checks, the more rules placed on
the system, the longer it took to get a round off. Thus, some of these
accusations were justified, but now training is designed to achieve
the best of both worlds—faster response without degrading the con­
cern for safety and accuracy. This training is applicable to a counter­
insurgency or to the conventional, mid-intensity conflict.
Target acquisition is another excellent example of the meshing
of U.S. Army needs in counterguerrilla and conventional warfare.
Field artillery experiences in Vietnam underscored the fact that
developments in target acquisition organizations and materiel
through the 1960's had not kept pace with developments in weap­
ons and mobility systems. Two general historical examples from
Vietnam illustrate this point. First, American survey equipment
was unequal to the task. In order to conduct a detailed survey
with the means available, survey teams were required to bring
control unusually long distances from questionable survey control
points over insecure terrain. Even when these obstacles could be
overcome, the means used were unresponsive to the needs of the
many firing batteries that moved continuously, often two or three
times in one day. As a result, survey personnel took shortcuts to
obtain position and direction, although the shortcuts lessened ac­
curacy. The requirement for similar rapid moves exists on the
modern battlefield, conventional, armor-heavy, or otherwise. Sec­
ond, the field artillery was deficient in locating enemy mortars,
rockets, and artillery. The sector of scan of the 1950-era radar,
the MPQ-4A, was unacceptably small. The Army had no radar
designed to track low-trajectory projectiles, and the equipment
available to vector on enemy firing positions by sound ranging
was obsolescent and consequently never used effectively in Vietnam.
Much has been done to correct these target acquisition de­
ficiencies. Advances in survey equipment and follow-up position
determining systems indicate that the field artillery's require­
ment for fast, accurate survey is on the way to being solved. Needs
have been stated for new countermortar and counterbattery radars,
and the Army is in the advanced phases of the equipment develop­
ment cycle for the new radars. Also being developed but not yet
in the inventory is new sound ranging equipment that will be
easier to emplace and will be faster and more accurate in determin­
ing enemy target locations.
Even while U.S. ground troops were still fighting in Vietnam,
some promising developments occurred in target acquisition. A
new moving target locating radar, the AN/TPS-58 (RATAC)
was introduced to replace the AN/TPS-25. The RATAC, which

has a longer range and a wider sector of scan and is easier to em-
place than its predecessor, proved quite effective though its avail­
ability was limited. Perhaps more important than the RAT AC was
the employment of several types of unattended ground sensors.
Though the over-all effectiveness of unattended ground sensors
was difficult to assess, the concept proved workable and has
prompted follow-up development.
While target acquisition systems are being developed and re­
fined, the Field Artillery School has been conducting studies to
determine those organizations that can best employ the systems.
It is generally conceded that the present organization, which cen­
tralizes most of the target acquisition assets at corps artillery in
the field artillery target acquisition battalion, is no longer adequate.
While in some situations corps artillery will have a need to con­
trol a system whose coverage is wide and deep enough to serve
the entire corps, in many other situations such centralization will
inhibit the responsiveness of fire support. A sizable target acquisi­
tion capability at the division artillery and direct support battalion
levels is needed in order to acquire and destroy targets at lower
artillery levels in response to more localized needs on the modern
In tactical operations planning Vietnam showed that the im­
portance of the fire support co-ordinator and the forward observer
to the success of a battle has expanded significantly over the past
decade. The mobility of U.S. forces has advanced to a point that
in any future conflict, whether a small-scale insurgency or a high-
intensity war, the situation on the battlefield most likely will be
fluid, with continuous night and day operations. No longer can the
Army depend on the neat phasing of operations that permitted
the luxury of detailed advance planning for employing maneuver
forces and their supporting fires. Planning will be ongoing and in
reaction to the circumstances of the moment. Moreover, the weapon
systems available to support ground troops have proliferated over
the years, as have the types of ammunition for each system. Fire
support co-ordinators, particularly at the lower levels (maneuver
battalion and brigade), will have to be chosen from the very
best field artillery officers available. They and the forward ob­
servers with the maneuver units must bring decisive fire power
of the right types and amounts to fulfill the needs of the ever-
changing situation on the ground. On the modern battlefield they
must know at once what fire support is available, how to get it,
and how to employ it. They must be able to co-ordinate each of
the various fire support means available to them so that they

obtain the maximum effect from all. Through it all they must
keep direct support battalions fully informed about what the sup­
ported maneuver forces are doing on the ground.
Despite the challenge that modern warfare presents to the fire
support co-ordinator and the forward observer, neither can be
given the training time required to learn their duties on the job.
They must be trained and prepared to assume full duties im­
mediately upon arrival in the combat theater. When the system is
operating correctly the ground commander, knowing how to use
fire support, can concentrate on the plan of maneuver, confident
that his fire support co-ordinator and the forward observers will
arrange the necessary fires to support the maneuver plan with
minimum supervision.
The field artillery community has recognized the increased im­
portance of fire support co-ordinators and forward observers and
has taken action to insure that both will be fully qualified to as­
sume their duties in the event of war. The program of instruction
on fire support co-ordination for the field artillery officer advanced
course and the instruction given lieutenants in the basic course
on duties of the forward observer have been expanded to include
more practical training in a more realistic environment. Fire plan­
ning is also being streamlined and will be realistically based on
priority, not on quantity of targets.
We expect the high density of aircraft on the modern battle­
field to require that air space usage be carefully co-ordinated.
Vietnam exposed the overlapping control of usable air space, for
the field artillery was given the mission of controlling air space over
battle areas because it seemed a logical extension of its duty of
co-ordinating fires. If the field artillery fire support officer co­
ordinates the activities of all supporting fire in the target area,
he is in fact co-ordinating the use of air space. The argument is
valid so long as the air space co-ordination responsibilities of the
fire support officer are limited to the target area. But this was not
in fact the case. These responsibilities most often included a large
area of operations and involved the issuance of advisories to ad­
ministrative air traffic as well as all other air traffic entering or
traversing the area. In Vietnam the artillery liaison sections, partic­
ularly at maneuver battalion and brigade levels, devoted a large
portion of their efforts to controlling, or managing, air traffic, some­
times to the detriment of the primary duty for which they were
organized and equipped—the co-ordination of supporting fires. At
present, studies are being conducted to determine how this matter
might best be resolved. Over the long term, air space management

may be automated, and the Army is attempting to determine

exactly what is required of an automated system before materiel
is developed.
Overshadowing the whole problem of managing air space are
service missions and functions that recognize the Air Force com­
ponent commander as the air space manager in a combined en­
vironment. In practice, the Air Force has allowed the Army to
manage air space over the battle area. Still, there is no assurance
that the Air Force will be able to operate in future conflicts as it
did in Vietnam.
In materiel, the requirements for upgraded artillery weapons
in a conventional war conveniently overlap the requirements for
artillery weapons in a counterguerrilla war. In Vietnam, weapons
with longer ranges were needed to mass fires and to provide
increased area coverage, just as they will be needed in a conven­
tional war on the modern battlefield. Also, lightweight artillery
contributes as much to the strategic mobility of airborne forces as
it does to the tactical mobility of airmobile forces in either a
conventional or counterguerrilla war. Both types of force will be
well served by the new towed models of 105- and 155-mm. howit­
zers, which are in advanced stages of development. The new weap­
ons will be close to the same weight and will have the same
reliability but will shoot considerably farther than those they are
to replace.
These, then, are the major areas on which the field artillery
is concentrating its attention to prepare for future conflicts, regard­
less of the type of battlefield on which it is called to fight. In retro­
spect it is apparent that field artillery units initially sent to Vietnam
were not always properly organized to accomplish the job before
them. Major internal reorganizations and major changes to oper­
ating procedures were often required. This is no criticism of the
state of preparedness to fight in Vietnam, for the U.S. Army was
trained and its forces were organized to fight in a conventional war.
There was no time to reorganize, and, even if time had been avail­
able, the Army had little counterguerrilla expertise within its ranks.
Uncertainty of exactly what was to be done or how to do it resulted.
Vietnam provided valuable insight into how American forces
might best fight and be organized to fight in future counterguer­
rilla operations, and detailed tactical field artillery lessons are
The challenges peculiar to counterguerrilla warfare for the
field artillery may be addressed by doctrinal and organizational
studies to determine how best to employ weapons effectively. These

studies are relatively inexpensive, so the eventuality of another in­

surgency can be prepared for despite a redirection of priorities or
budgetary restrictions.

The Field Artilleryman's Performance

Vietnam underscored certain doctrinal, organizational, and ma­
teriel insufficiencies that have been mentioned earlier. They are
being corrected in the postwar period. It must be noted, however,
that these insufficiencies did not prevent field artillerymen from
carrying out their mission.
In every modern war the performance of the field artillery
forward observer party has surpassed the most optimistic expecta­
tions. Vietnam was no exception. There an observer party generally
consisted of only two men—the forward observer, who was most
often a lieutenant but sometimes a junior noncommissioned officer,
and a radio operator. Americans had in Vietnam the smallest
forward observer party of any army in the Free World. Numeri­
cally, these parties represented a small part of the total field
artillery force, but their number belied their importance. They
were responsible for traveling with infantry rifle companies and
calling for and adjusting indirect artillery fires in support of the
companies. The forward observers were, therefore, the key to the
proper functioning of the entire field artillery system—a respon­
sibility that in many armies is fulfilled by the battery commander.
Vietnam presented unusual problems to the forward observer.
Thick jungle foliage frequently obscured his observation and/
thus made difficult the adjustment of fires and determination of
position. In the Mekong Delta, where observation was good, the
land was often so flat and unvarying throughout that position de­
termination was difficult. The forward observer used a number of
tricks to support the infantry: he requested spotting rounds when
his location was in doubt; he adjusted with smoke before firing
high-explosive ammunition to insure the safety of ground troops;
when in dense foliage, he adjusted by sound; and he continuously
sought out vantage points—hills, rocks, trees—that would allow
him to observe supporting fires.
There can be little doubt that the forward observer succeeded
in supporting the rifle company. The very esteem in which he
was held by the infantry is evidence enough that he got the job
done. As in the past, the infantry valued artillery support so much
that it was hesitant to move without its forward observer or be­
yond the range of its supporting cannons. If the forward observers
had done nothing more than provide supporting fires, that would

have been enough; most often, they did more. They commonly
navigated for the company, directed the fires of organic infantry
mortars, and assisted the company commander in numerous other
ways. On occasion the forward observer, by virtue of his rank and
the absence of other company officers, found himself second in
command succession to the company commander. Vietnam rein­
forced the reputation of American noncommissioned officers and
junior officers as the maneuver company commander's strong right
Field artillery fire support co-ordinators at all maneuver levels
from battalion up also deserve recognition for a job well done.
The complexities of co-ordinating supporting fires on the modern
day battlefield in general, and in Vietnam specifically, have been
discussed earlier. There can be no doubt that tremendous demands
were placed on fire support co-ordinators, especially those with the
maneuver battalions and brigades. In addition, they were short on
doctrine applicable to their situation, they were hampered by
rules of engagement and necessary clearance procedures, and they
were required continuously to co-ordinate air space usage. Yet
they met the challenge superbly. They quickly learned the capa­
bilities of each type of available weapon system, how to get it,
and how to orchestrate its employment with other weapons on the
During offensive operations, the fire support officer with a
maneuver brigade or battalion often traveled with the maneuver
commander. Most often the two, in addition to any subordinate
commanders or staff officers the maneuver commander elected to
take, orbited the battlefield in a command and control helicopter,
a control method not likely to be used on the modern battlefield.
The commander supervised and controlled the maneuver of his
forces. The fire support officer, normally a field artillery captain,
brought fire power to the battle area in support of the ground
forces. He bore heavy responsibility for an officer of his rank.
His job required that he think and act calmly and precisely, yet
quickly, under intense pressure in response to the ever-changing
situation below.
Artillerymen with firing units did a superlative job in provid­
ing continuous, and with the Military Assistance Command rules of
engagement, responsive, support to ground forces. Their use both
of existing mobility systems and of the fire base concept allowed
firing units to follow and support forces with the same high
quality support accredited to the field artillery in the past. Field
artillerymen had experience in moving by road convoy and, as
expected, did it well. Still, the environment increased the dangers

to convoy movement and necessitated more detailed preparations

than previously had been required. Roads had to be swept of
mines and secured in advance, and personnel had to be thoroughly
rehearsed in counterambush procedures. More impressive than
their ability to move by convoy was the field artillerymen's ability
to follow maneuver forces by helicopter and boat. A practiced
direct support artillery battery could move by air quickly and
efficiently. With only a few hours notice, battery personnel could
break down their position and rig all their weapons, equipment,
barrier materials, and ammunition for sling loads to be carried
by helicopter. Combat loading was practiced so that when the first
weapon arrived at its new position, equipment and ammunition
would be ready to fire at once. The ability to move and support
by boat was particularly noteworthy because the equipment used
was simply never designed for that purpose. The development of
U.S. riverine artillery involved a series of equipment and opera­
tional innovations, each one resulting in greater efficiency.
The most common term to come out of the Vietnam war was
"fire base." The fire base was not a defensive outpost but an
integral part of an offensive effort. Once the field artillery firing
unit was moved and positioned, the establishment of a carefully
planned fire base allowed the unit to stay in the position. The
fire base provided protection for firing units, even in the most
hostile regions. If a firing unit was brought into position in the
morning, by nightfall overhead cover had been constructed, the
infantry defenses had been prepared, infantry and artillery de­
fensive fires had been integrated and rehearsed, and mutually
supporting fires from distant fire bases had been planned and
fired. These defensive preparations insured that the firing unit
would always be effective when called upon to serve its function
of supporting offensive operations with indirect fire.
Normally the fire base was the forward command post of the
maneuver battalion. The men of the firing units were quick to
adopt new schemes to bring responsive fire support to the infantry
from their established fire bases. New procedures in the fire direc­
tion centers and at the weapons permitted the rapid shifting of
fires with no loss of accuracy and little loss of time.
Field artillery commanders at all levels demonstrated flexibility
and imagination in the performance of their mission. Much of
the field artillery had been organized to fight conventionally. As
a result, changes in organization and procedures had to be made at
all levels to accommodate the situation. At the battery, fire direc­
tion centers were augmented with additional men and equipment
to provide for decentralized operations and to permit firing units

to occupy several separate positions. At direct support battalions,

it was often necessary to organize additional firing batteries to
provide the coverage required by maneuver brigades whose area of
operations might cover hundreds of kilometers. At all battalions,
many of the maintenance, supply, and administrative activities of
the batteries were centralized and supervised so that battery com­
manders were relieved of many of those responsibilities. At higher
levels, commanders were given new responsibilities such as base
camp defense, which required internal reorganization of headquar­
ters. Changes to operating procedures often required a correspond­
ing .organizational change, which could only be accomplished by
use of assets authorized by tables of organization and equipment.
Thus, when battery fire direction centers were increased in size and
capability, personnel and equipment were taken from other sections
within the battery or provided from the existing assets of the parent
battalion. Or, when an additional firing battery was added to a bat­
talion, it was organized from personnel and equipment taken from
each of the other batteries. This ability of artillery commanders, re­
stricted by tables of organization and equipment, to accomplish
necessary internal reorganization to meet the situation was impres­
The field artillery advisers in the early years of the war must
also be recognized. Theirs was the lonely task of "advising" officers
and men who had been in combat for years. They worked long
and hard to teach the Vietnamese how to employ American weap­
ons. They were often frustrated in the early years by the relative
inefficiency of the Vietnamese artillery and the great reluctance
with which their advice was sometimes accepted. That these were
common complaints of the French advisers with the fledgling
American army in the 1780's made them no less frustrating in the
1960's. Still, over the years the adviser's efforts achieved results
and the South Vietnamese artillery at the time of the U.S. with­
drawal had officers and men with the requisite knowledge and
equipment to do the job.
Effective performance from individual field artillerymen is
certainly required if the entire system is to be effective but offers
no assurance that the system will be effective. An assessment of
field artillery performance cannot be made in isolation from the
rest of the Army. The field artillery was an integral part of total
U.S. combat power, all working toward the successful completion
of a single mission.
The most professional army that the United States has ever
fielded was sent to Vietnam to help a faltering nation repel an
insurgency. Time after time American soldiers met the enemy

on the battlefield and defeated him soundly. They pushed him

from hamlets and villages, pursued him across the countryside,
drove him from the highlands, and finally followed him into his
sanctuaries. They bought time for the South Vietnamese to build
their armed forces and bring their government to their people. It
is true that American forces did not destroy the enemy; he could
not be destroyed, only repulsed, because of the boundary limitations
and manpower restrictions that were imposed. But Americans left
Vietnam a stronger nation with the requisite know-how and equip­
ment to do the job.
In all of this, the field artillery contributed significantly to the
successful completion of the Army's mission. It helped ground
forces repel the enemy and followed the ground forces in pursuit.
It aided in the protection of hamlets, government installations, and
lines of communication and held the enemy at bay while the South
Vietnamese government worked with the people to better their
lives and gain their support. It also helped build and strengthen
the South Vietnamese field artillery to a point where it is capable
of providing the support needed by its army. That is what the field
artillery set out to do.

A Shau Valley: 157-60, 168 Aircraft—Continued

Abrams, General Creighton W.: 197, 218. C-141: 168
See also United States Army, Viet­ safety, assuring: 179
nam; United States Military Assist­ transport by. See Airlifts of troops and
ance Command, Vietnam. supplies.
Accidents, prevention and investigation Aircraft warning centers: 179, 201
of: 176-79 Airfields, construction of: 17, 112
Administration, conduct of: 23, 43, 226, Airlifts of troops and supplies: 34-35,
239 44, 52-56, 75, 81-83, 88-96, 101-04,
Advisers: 21-37, 190, 192, 219, 230, 239 107-10, 133, 147, 156, 168, 185, 213,
Aerial observers: 83, 94, 96, 179, 228 219, 238
Aerial rocket artillery: 50-51, 88, 90-96, Airmobile Divisions
100-10, 118, 131, 141-42, 212, 219. 1st Cavalry: 53-54, 75, 86-96, 108, 130,
See also Tactical air support. 142, 155-60, 168, 207-15
Aerial supply. See Airlifts of troops and 101st Airborne: 54, 160, 167
supplies. Airmobile firing platform. See Fire sup­
Agriculture: 5-7 port.
Air Assault Division, 11th: 53-54 Airmobility concept, development and
Air assaults. See Airborne operations; application of: 34, 53-54, 81-82, 84,
Airmobility concept, development 89-96, 101, 133, 155-60, 219
and application of; Parachute as­ Ambush actions: 39, 90, 165
saults. Ambush actions, enemy: 31, 75, 96, 107
Air defense: 47, 60, 219 Americal Division. See Infantry Divi­
Air defense, enemy: 31, 157-59 sions, 23d.
Air operations. See Strategic air support; Ammunition
Tactical air support. antipersonnel projectile, XM546: 61,
Air space, co-ordinating usage of: 48, 179, 79
234-35, 237 Beehive round: 61, 79, 108-10, 113, 120,
Air strikes. See Strategic air support; Tac­ 127, 129, 161, 163, 193, 213-14
tical air support. expenditures and resupply: 49, 75-76,
Air supply. See Airlifts of troops and sup­ 83, 95, 104-06, 118, 121, 129, 142,
plies. 146-47, 151, 159-60, 165, 167, 185-86,
Airborne Brigade, 173d: 38, 81-86, 110, 195, 212
112-20, 131 improved conventional munitions: 148,
Airborne Infantry Regiments 164-65
327th: 121-24 incendiary rounds: 174
503d: 117 in Republic of Vietnam Army: 27
Airborne operations: 31, 117 smoke rounds: 130, 175
Aircraft. See also Helicopters. time-fuzed: 61
B-52: 94-95, 120, 151-54, 157, 160, 210­ white phosphorous: 85, 130
11,223 An Khe: 89, 92
C-47: 129 An Khe Pass: 221
C-123: 107 An Lao Valley: 101
C-124: 108 An Loc: 144, 221-24
C-130: 52, 107-08, 112, 117 An My: 146

Anderson, Captain Charles C: 117

Artillery Battalions—Continued

Anderson, Staff Sergeant Webster: 122-24

2d, 320th Artillery: 61, 86, 121-24

Angel's Wing area: 206

3d, 13th Artillery: 111-17, 120-21, 161­
Annamite Mountains: 5

Antiaircraft defenses. See Air defenses.

3d, 16th Artillery: 121-24

Antipersonnel projectile XM546. See Am­ 3d, 34th Artillery: 77, 147, 168

munition. 3d, 82d Artillery: 111-17

Ap Bac: 30
3d, 197th Artillery: 167-68, 172

Arc Light. See Tactical air support.

3d, 319th Artillery: 81-86, 107, 112-17,

Areas of operations: 42, 239

129, 172

4th, 42d Artillery: 194

Armor support: 107

4th, 60th Artillery: 194

Armored Cavalry Regiment, 11th: 96,

4th, 77th Artillery: 167, 219

110-17, 207-15
5th, 2d Artillery: 111-17

Armored personnel carriers: 31

6th, 15th Artillery: 165

Army Artillery: 42
6th, 16th Artillery: 110

Army Reserve units: 97

6th, 27th Artillery: 108, 111-17

Artillery assistance programs: 190-205

6th, 77th Artillery: 163-65

Artillery Battalions. See also Artillery

7th, 8th Artillery: 108

7th, 9th Artillery: 111-17

1st, 5th Artillery: 111-17, 166-67

7th, 11th Artillery: 111-17, 161-63

1st, 7th Artillery: 76, 86, 107-10, 112­ 8th, 4th Artillery: 158-60, 219

17, 142
8th, 6th Artillery: 72, 107-10, 112-17,

1st, 8th Artillery: 61, 113, 163-65


1st, 11th Artillery: 168

8th, 25th Artillery: 179

1st, 21st Artillery: 49, 93, 140, 157-60

8th, 26th Artillery: 179

1st, 30th Artillery: 104, 142, 155, 157­ Artillery Command, Republic of Viet­
nam Armed Forces: 204

1st, 39th Artillery: 168, 219

Artillery Groups

1st, 40th Artillery: 147-48

23d: 73, 87, 133, 146, 167, 169, 189, 200,

1st, 44th Artillery: 189


1st, 77th Artillery: 106

41st: 133-34, 167, 169

1st, 83d Artillery: 142, 147, 158-60, 169

52d: 169, 190, 194-95, 213

1st, 84th Artillery: 70, 168

54th: 112, 147, 167, 169

1st, 92d Artillery: 192, 195-96

108th: 155, 167, 219-20

2d, 4th Artillery: 124-29, 168

Artilllery and Missile School. See Ar­
2d, 9th Artillery: 181
tillery School.

2d, 11th Artillery: 111-17

Artillery raids. See Fire support.

2d, 12th Artillery: 168

Artillery School: 23, 25-26, 84, 134-36,

2d, 13th Artillery: 107, 111-117, 143,

227, 233

165, 172-73
Artillery schools, Republic of Vietnam

2d, 17th Artillery: 89-96

Army: 191, 200-205, 220, 228-29

2d, 19th Artillery: 89, 106, 110, 157­ Artillery units. See also Artillery Battal­
2d, 20th Artillery: 118-20, 158-60
in airlifts. See Airlifts of troops and
2d, 26th Artillery: 179

2d, 32d Artillery: 111-17

in airmobile division: 54

2d, 33d Artillery: 107, 112-17

in army artillery: 42

2d, 35th Artillery: 111-17

arrivals and departures: 3, 38, 81,

2d, 40th Artillery: 147

86-87, 110, 129, 167-68, 215, 217

2d, 77th Artillery: 111-17, 120-21

artillery assistance program: 190-205

2d, 94th Artillery: 219

combat effectiveness and deficiencies:

2d, 138th Artillery: 167-68

231, 236-40

Artillery units—Continued
Australian forces: 48, 83-84

in corps artillery: 42, 44-45, 233

Aviation Group, 11th: 159-60

critiques of operations: 129-36, 165­ Awards. See Decorations and awards.

66, 231-36

in division artillery: 40-44, 46-47, 86,

Ba Ria: 145

96-97, 233
Ban Me Thuot: 138

emplacement and displacement: 44-45,

Barges, artillery use of: 77-80, 147, 238

50, 55, 101-04, 107-08, 118-20, 133,

Base camps: 17, 44, 73-75, 16Q

212-13, 215, 226-27, 232. See also

Base camps, enemy: 112, 205. See also

Airlifts of troops and supplies,

Cambodia; Laos.

enemy: 13
Bearcat: 110

exchange program: 199

Beehive round. See Ammunition.

in Field Forces: 45-47, 87

Beiler, Captain John A.: 77

fourth battalion concept: 169-70

Ben Het: 118, 195,230

group organization: 42, 87

Ben Tre: 138, 145

infantry, relations with: 43-44, 55

Bicn Hoa: 81, 83, 108, 143, 145, 167-68,

Jungle Battery: 200


losses. See Materiel losses,

Binh Dinh Province: 98-110

mobility of: 43, 51-55, 238

Binh Duong Province: 167

nondivisional units: 46-47, 96-97

Binh Gia: 107

organization and training: 3, 23-24, 38­ Binh Long Province: 221

39, 45, 81, 87, 96-97, 133-36, 168-73,

BINH TAY I operation: 213-15

231, 233-34, 238-39

BIRMINGHAM operation: 106-10

in parachute assaults: 31, 117

BLACK HORSE operation: 100-10

personnel problems. See Personnel

Bon, Tri: 141

management and turbulence,

Bong Son: 35, 100-106

platoon program: 215-16

Box fire, application of. See Fire support.

proficiency tests: 134

Bridge demolition, enemy: 188

separate battalions: 86
Brown, Major General Charles P.: 19,

soldiers, demands on and accomplish­ 134

ments: 129-30, 239-40

Bu Dop: 212

strength, periodic: 97, 136, 169

Bulldozers: 162-63

task organizations: 170-71

Bunker systems: 73

Artillery warning control centers: 48,

Bunker systems, enemy: 147, 154, 214

116, 179, 211

Artillery weapons
Ca Lu: 155

8-inch howitzer: 44, 50, 59, 61

Caches, enemy. See Food losses, enemy;

105-mm. howitzer: 35, 49-50, 59, 61,

Materiel losses, enemy.

70, 77-79, 235

Calibration and registration. See Fire

155-mm. howitzer: 44, 47, 49-50, 59,


61, 70, 116, 235

Cam Ranh: 19

175-mm. gun: 50, 59

Cam Ranh Bay: 16

in airlifts. See Airlifts of troops and

Cambodia: 5-6, 108, 120, 143, 165-66,

175, 182, 194-95, 205-15, 230

on barges: 77-80
Camp, Brigadier General Marlin W.: 107

deficiencies and improvements: 133,

Camp Carroll: 12, 151, 153

231, 235

Camp. Enari: 73

dispositions and emplacements: 55-59,

Camp Evans: 156

70-71, 76-80

Duster 40-mm. weapon: 60, 97, 111,

Camp Holloway: 89

Camp Radcliff: 73, 92

enemy types: 11, 227

Can Tho: 138

on landing craft: 76-77

Canals. See Waterways.


Capital Military Assistance Command: Communications systems and operations,

169 enemy: 143, 159, 228
Capital Military District: 145, 167, 169 Computers, tactical use of: 136
Casualties: 94-95, 110, 113, 121, 123-24, Congress of Unification: 8
129, 162-63, 166, 176,182 Conscription programs, enemy: 10
allied: 17, 38, 219 Continental Army Command: 38
enemy: 15, 30, 83-84, 89, 91, 94-95, 98, Convoys, supply and movement by: 52,
106, 110, 112-13, 120, 129, 142, 146­ 185, 237-38
48, 154-55, 157, 160, 162-63, 165-66, Corps
182, 195, 214, 219 XXIV: 168-69, 179, 202, 216-17
Cavalry Battalions and Squadrons organization: 45
1st, 4th Cavalry: 107 Provisional Corps, Vietnam: 167, 169
1st, 5th Cavalry: 94-96 Corps Artillery
1st, 7th Cavalry: 92-96, 157 XXIV: 11, 201-02, 204, 216-17, 219
1st, 8th Cavalry: 90, 111-17 XXX: 87
1st, 9th Cavalry: 90, 155 Provisional Corps, Vietnam: 169
2d, 7th Cavalry: 94-96, 156-57 Corps Tactical Zones: 19
2d, 8th Cavalry: 91 I: 86, 118-24, 138-43, 147-48, 160, 167­
2d, 12th Cavalry: 89-96, 108, 110, 140­ 68, 181
42 II: 38, 87-96, 134, 138-57, 169, 190-91,
5th, 7th Cavalry: 140-41 213
Cay Giap Mountains: 101 III: 86, 110, 112, 140, 143-47, 157, 168­
Cease-fire agreements: 137, 229 69, 198
Central Highlands: 5-6, 117-20 IV: 147, 168-69, 226
Central Office of South Vietnam: 111­ Counterbattery/countermortar fire. See
12, 206 Fire support.
Charlton, Major Daniel P.: 77 Counterinsurgency, meeting: 7-8, 235-36
Chemical agents: 174 "Crachin": 7
China, People's Republic of: 6 Crain, Staff Sergeant Carrol V.: 110
Chu-Luc-Quan: 9 Critiques of operations: 129-36, 165-66,
Chu Pong Massif: 92, 94 231-36. See also Lesssons learned.
Chup Plantation: 207 Crittenberger, Brigadier General Willis
Civic action programs: 188-89 D., Jr.: I l l
Civil affairs: 44, 46 Cu Chi: 143-44, 147
Civilian Irregular Defense Groups: 87, Cushman, Lieutenant General Robert E.,
89, 92, 112, 122-24, 148, 191, 193, USMC: 149
195, 200, 204-05, 213
Civilians, control of and support by: 20, Da Lat: 18, 191
35, 44-45, 138, 174 Da Nang: 11-12, 18, 81, 138, 179
Clearances, fire. See Fire support. Daisy Cutter bomb: 160
Climate: 7 Dan Quan Du Kich: 9
Cluster bomb unit: 148 DAN QUYEN operation: 195
DAN THANG operation: 30
Coastal Lowlands area: 5, 7
Dang Lao Dong: 8
Combat service support: 40, 73
Dang Tri Mountains: 148
Combat support: 40, 106
Dau Tieng: 143, 182, 223
Command and control: 29, 42, 46-47, 55, Davis, Private First Class Sammy L.: 127—
86-87, 112, 130, 237-38 29
Command and control, Republic of Viet­ Dean, Lieutenant Colonel Robert: 61
nam Army: 19-20, 22, 29, 37, 43, Decorations and awards: 110, 123, 128,
145, 169, 216 167
Communications systems and operations: Defectors, enemy. See Repatriation pro­
32-33, 40, 43, 83, 106,125, 132, 155-56 gram.
DELAWARE operation: 157-60
Fire Bases: 17, 55-72, 110, 121-24, 136,

Demilitarized Zone: 13, 179, 181, 220-21

161-67, 238

DEWEY CANYON operation: 219

5 and 6: 222-23

Diem, Ngo Dinh: 18, 20, 22, 37

BARBARA: 224-25

Dien Bien Phu: 21


Dinh Thong Province: 124


Direct fire. See Fire support.

BUELL: 165

Distinguished Service Cross award: 110

BURT: 120-21

Districts and district chiefs: 19


Division Artillery
CROOK: 166, 182

1st Cavalry Division: 86, 142, 156-60

CUDGEL: 124-29

1st Infantry Division: 86, 107-17, 172

GOLD: 113

4th Infantry Division: 118-20, 188, 194

MACE: 126-27

9th Infantry Division: 110, 168


25th Infantry Division: 111-17, 121,

MAURY I: 161-63

NANCY: 217

Documents, capture and exploitation of:

PACE: 221

15-17, 84, 137-38

PIKE VI: 163-65

Dong Ha: 167, 221-22, 224

Fire control, co-ordination and direction

Dong Nai River: 84

of: 18, 35, 41-44, 47-49, 55, 83-84,

Dong Tam: 124

96-97, 107, 112-13, 118-20, 132-35,

DONG TIEN operation: 198-200

142, 151, 174, 195-96, 199-201, 210­
Dong Xoai: 81-82
15, 219, 230, 233-34, 237-38

Drugs: 226
Fire co-ordination. See Fire control, co­
Due Hoa: 144
ordination and direction of.

Due My: 25, 191

FIRE CRACKER ammunition: 148

Duster 40-mm. weapon. See Artillery

Fire direction. See Aerial observers; Fire

control, co-ordination and direction

of; Forward observers.

EAGLE'S CLAW operation: 100-10

Fire direction centers: 30, 32, 39, 41, 59,

Engineer support: 107

68-69, 72, 132-33, 136, 155-56, 238­
ENHANCE project: 205, 216-17, 229

Equipment losses. See Materiel losses.

Fire Direction Officer's School, Republic

of Vietnam Army: 200

FADAC (field artillery digital computer) :

Fire support. See also Aerial rocket ar­
tillery; Tactics.

Field Artillery School. See Artillery

from airmobile firing platform: 124,


Field expedients: 70
artillery raids: 184-88, 216

Field Forces, Vietnam: 42, 45

from barges: 77-80, 147, 238

I: 86-87, 190, 194

in base camp defense: 73-75

II: 86-87, 110-17, 143, 147, 225

Field Forces, Vietnam, Artillery

box fire: 151-53

I: 133, 169, 190-94, 198, 200, 215-16,

calibration and registration: 199-200,


II: 87, 111-17, 134, 145, 169, 172, 198,

in Cambodia: 205-16

204, 206, 210-15

clearances for: 48, 83-86, 142-43, 145,

Field Front Headquarters, North Viet­ 151, 168, 173-79, 196, 215, 230, 237

namese Army: 92-93

control, co-ordination, and direction:

Field Liaison Directorate, Republic of

18> 35^ 4i_44; 47_49, 55, 83-84, 96­
Vietnam Army: 229
97, 107, 112-13, 118-20, 132-35, 142,

Fire adjustment. See Aerial observers;

151, 174, 195-96, 199-201, 210-15,

Forward observers.
219, 230, 233-34, 237-38


Fire support—Continued
Forward observers: 29-30, 43, 47-48, 68,

counterbattery/countermortar fire:
72, 83, 89, 96, 130-33, 179, 190-91, 214,

61-69, 85, 117, 120, 156, 227-28

233-34, 236-37. See also Aerial ob­
in counterguerrilla operations: 7-8,

Foster, Lieutenant Nathaniel: 72

at Dak To: 117-20

Fourth battalion concept. See Artillery

deficiencies and corrections: 18, 83-84,


France and French Army: 21-22, 25-27,

direct fire: 61, 73, 79, 153-54

29-32, 83, 239

effectiveness: 95, 106, 116-18, 146-47

Free Wold Military Assistance Forces:

enemy: 13, 149

134, 200, 211. See also by name.

errors, investigating: 177

fire plan: 68-69

Gadsden Village: 189

firing data, computing: 132-33, 175-76

Gavin, Lieutenant General James M.:

harassing and interdiction missions:


151, 187-88
General Reserve, Republic of Vietnam

in la Drang campaign: 87-96

Army: 169

indirect fire: 69-70, 238

Geneva Accords, 1954: 8, 10, 22

intelligence and interdiction fires: 188

Geography. See Terrain features.

at Katum: 165
Gia Dinh Province: 145

at Khe Sanh: 148-57

Giap, General Vo Nguyen: 9, 17

Killer Junior and Senior techniques:

Go Dau Ha: 207

61, 164
Grenade assaults, enemy: 113, 122, 127,

in Laos: 218-19
161, 163

lessons learned: 3, 18, 31-37, 39, 84­ Grenade launchers: 60

86, 95-96, 113-16, 130-36, 161-65,

Guerrilla units and operations, enemy:

9, 22, 30, 135-36

mission assignment: 40-42, 45-47, 174—

Gulf of Tonkin: 7, 38

75, 231

multiple volley missions: 151

Hamlet organization: 19-20

mutually supporting: 69, 96, 166, 238

Harassing and interdiction fires. See

in parachute assaults: 31, 117

Fire support.

by Republic of Vietnam Army: 26-33

Hay, Major General John H., Jr.: 167

in riverine operations: 75-80, 238

Helgoland (hospital ship) : 189

in Saigon area: 157


at Thien Ngon: 165

AH-1G Huey Cobra: 50

time-on-target fires: 41, 104, 151, 188,

CH-21 Shawnee: 35

195, 211
CH-34 Choctaw: 34

types: 48
CH-37 Mohave: 81-82

Fire support bases. See Fire bases.

CH-47 Chinook: 54-55, 75, 103-04, 107

Fire support co-ordination centers: 48,

CH-54 Tarhe (Crane) : 54-55, 75, 104

83, 199-200
UH-1 Huey: 50, 54

Fire support coordinator: 47

airlifts by. See Airlifts of troops and

Fire support element: 48


Firing charts: 32, 72, 136

assaults by. See Tactical air support.

fire support by. See Tactical air sup­

Firing data, computing. See Fire support.


Firing tables: 61

losses: 31, 159-60

Fish Hook area: 206-07

supply and transport by. See Airlifts

FISH HOOK operation: 166-67

of troops and supplies.

Flares, tactical use of: 33, 59, 73. See also

Highway 1: 100, 143, 224

Illumination, battlefield.
Highway 9: 149, 155-57, 218-19

Food losses, enemy: 83-84, 92

Highway 13: 144, 146, 221, 223

Highway 14: 194, 221
Infantry Brigades—Continued

Highway 14N: 188

3d, 1st Cavalry Division: 92-96, 100­
Highway 19: 38, 221
106, 138-42, 156-60, 212-15

Highway 19E: 188

3d, 4th Infantry Division: 111-17

Highway 548: 159

3d, 9th Infantry Division: 168

Highway 555: 224

3d, 82d Airborne Division: 168

Hill 471: 155

3d, 101st Airborne Division: 110

Hill 758: 154

196th Light: 96, 111-17

Hill 861: 149

199th Light: 96, 111-17, 145, 147

Hill 875: 118

Infantry Divisions

Hill 881S: 154

Americal. See 23d (Americal) below.

Ho Chi Minh: 8
1st: 75, 106-17, 138, 144, 146, 167

Ho Chi Minh Trail: 221

4th: 73, 96, 117-20, 213-15

Hoc Mon: 143

9th: 96, 124-29, 134, 168, 226 ^

Hou Nghia Province: 167

23d (Americal) : 110, 167, 172, 202

Howze, General Hamilton H.: 53

25th: 96, 110-17, 120-21, 143, 147, 165,

Hue: 18, 138-43, 168, 221-22, 224-25

182, 212-15

Infantry Regiments

22d: 113, 120

la Drang Valley: 87-96

60th: 124-29

Illumination, battlefield: 59-60, 94, 120,

Infiltration, enemy: 8-10, 138, 148

127, 177

Infrared devices: 73

Improved conventional munitions. See

Inspections: 176

Instructors, Republic of Vietnam Army:

Improvement and Modernization Plan,

201-02, 204, 229

Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces:

Intelligence and interdiction fires. See

196-97, 202
Fire support.

Indirect fire. See Fire support.

Intelligence operations and reports: 44,

Indochinese Communist Party: 8

91, 98-101, 106, 117, 125, 132, 153­
54, 157, 159, 195, 205-06, 218, 220­
artillery relationship with: 43-44, 55

support of and by: 32, 43-44, 59-61,

Intelligence operations and reports, en­
107-08, 165, 236-38
emy: 148

Infantry Battalions
Iron Triangle area: 110-11

1st, 503d Infantry: 83

Irrigation canals. See Waterways.

2d, 501st Infantry: 140, 142

2d, 503d Infantry: 83

Jennings, Sergeant Delbert O.: 110

3d, 60th Infantry: 168

JIM BOWIE operation: 104

4th, 23d Infantry: 161-63

Johnson, Lyndon B.: 38, 128

Infantry Brigades
Joint Chiefs of Staff: 197

1st, 1st Cavalry Division: 89-96, 101­ Joint General Staff, Republic of Vietnam

06, 118-20, 159-60

Armed Forces: 19, 193, 218, 220

1st, 4th Infantry Division: 117-20

Joint operations. See Riverine opera­
1st, 5th Mechanized Division: 50, 167,

JUNCTION CITY operation: 111-17, 136

1st, 9th Infantry Division: 111-17

Jungle Battery. See Artillery units.

1st, 101st Airborne Division: 86, 121­

24, 167
Katum: 117, 165

2d, 1st Cavalry Division: 95-96, 101­ KEN GIANG operation: 124-29

06, 155-57
Kennedy, John F.: 22

2d, 1st Infantry Division: 86

Kentucky National Guard, 167-68

2d, 9th Infantry Division: 76

Khe Sanh: 148-57, 168, 182, 219, 231

2d, 101st Airborne Division: 110

Khe Sanh Plateau: 218


Killer Junior and Senior techniques. See Machine guns, enemy: 13

Fire support. McNamara, Robert S.: 196
Kim Son Valley: 101, 108 McNamara Wall: 181-82
Kontum: 138, 192, 222-24 Maintenance and repair: 23, 44, 186-87,
Kontum Pass: 221 198, 216, 239
Kontum Province: 117, 194-95, 223 Malaya: 20, 51
Korean forces. See Republic of Korea Map reading: 130-31
forces. Marxist Study Club: 8
MASHER operation: 98-110
La Vong: 224 Materiel losses: 129, 149, 151, 161-63, 219
Lai Khe: 107, 144, 146 enemy: 83, 91-92, 101, 112-13, 156-57,
LAM SON operations: 157-60, 218-19, 159-60, 182, 214, 227
224, 230 Republic of Vietnam Army: 222-23
Lan, Major General Lu Mong, Republic Medal of Honor awards: 110, 123, 128,
of Vietnam Army: 194 167
Landing craft, artillery fire from: 76-77 Medical Civic Action Program: 188-89
Landing Zones: 17, 31, 52, 90 Medical evacuation and treatment: 121,
ALBANY: 94-95 123
BIRD: 61,108-10, 136 Medical supply losses, enemy: 92
BLACKHORSE: 116 Mekong River and Delta: 5-6, 30, 52,
COLUMBUS: 93-96 75-80, 147, 221, 226, 236
FALCON: 92-95 Meteorological data: 30, 183-84, 199-200,
NOLE: 142 228
STADIUM: 92 METRO MEDIA operation: 226
STUD: 155-57 Midway conference: 197
X-RAY: 92-94 Mil system: 32, 70, 72, 135-36
Lang Vai: 148 Mildren, Lieutenant General Frank T.:
Language barrier: 48, 134 187-88
Lao Dong Party: 8 Military Academy, Republic of Vietnam:
Laos: 5, 7, 154, 181, 194-95, 218-19, 221 191
Leaflets, warning by: 174 Military assistance programs: 21-22, 190­
Lessons learned: 3, 18, 31-37, 39, 84-86, 205
95-96, 113-16, 130-36, 161-65, 231-36 Military Assistance Training Agency: 23
Liaison personnel and measures: 18, 21, Military Regions: 42
46, 48, 68, 83-84, 89, 106, 112-13, I: 201, 204-05, 217-25, 229
120, 134-35, 142, 145, 179, 190, 192, II: 204-05, 221-23, 226, 229
196,201,207,213-15,234 III: 205, 207, 213, 221, 223, 229
Liberation Army of the Front: 9 IV: 110, 205, 226
Lien-Viet: 8 Militia units, enemy. See Paramilitary
Lines of communication: 27, 45 units, enemy.
LocNinh: 117, 137,221 Minh, Major General Nguyen Van: 221
Logistical systems and operations: 23, 43, Mining operations: 59, 73
46, 185, 192, 198, 202, 216 Mining operations, enemy: 14-15, 107,
Logistical systems and operations, en­ 188, 238
emy: 9, 205 Mission assignment. See Fire support.
Lon Nol: 205 Mobile Riverine Force: 147
Long Binh: 143-45 Mobile Strike Force, 3d: 173, 200
Loudspeakers, warning by: 174 Monsoons. See Weather, effect on oper­
MACARTHUR operation: 117-20 Montagnards: 154
McGuire, Brigadier General Thomas J.: Morale problems: 226
215-16 Morale status, Republic of Vietnam
Machine guns: 60 Army: 27-28, 31, 35-37, 216
Mortar fire assaults: 237 North Vietnamese Army—Continued
Mortar fire assaults, enemy: 11, 15, 68, 22d Regiment: 101, 108
89, 92, 95, 108, 113, 120, 122-26, 138, 28th Regiment: 195
145, 149, 156, 161, 163, 166, 180, 182 32d Regiment: 91-92
Mortars: 60 33d Regiment: 91-93
enemy: 13 40th Artillery Regiment: 195
Republic of Vietnam: 27-28, 34-35 66th Regiment: 91-94, 195
Motor vehicles: 44 210th Regiment: 100
Multiple volley missions. See Fire sup­ Northern Mountains area: 3-6
port. Northern Plains area: 3, 5, 7
Murray, Private First Class William H.:
128 O'Daniel, Lieutenant General John W.:
Mutually supporting fires. See Fire sup­ 22. See also United States Military
port. Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam.
My Chanh River: 223-24 Officer Candidate School: 135
My Tho: 138, 145, 147 Officers, Republic of Vietnam Army: 25­
My Tho River: 147 26, 31, 203
Okinawa: 81
Napalm, tactical use of: 94 On-the-job training: 134, 199, 234
National Guard units: 97, 167-68, 172 Operational control. See Command and
National Liberation Front: 8-10, 137-38, control.
142, 144 Operational readiness evaluations: 199
National Police: 138, 144-45, 169 Operations procedures. See Fire support;
Naval air and gunfire support: 45, 47, Tactics.
76-80, 100, 106, 141-42 OPORD 17-65: 83
Navarre, General Henri-Eugene: 21 Orientation training: 39, 133-35
Navigation, land: 43, 130, 237 Outposts: 17, 27, 32
New Hampshire National Guard: 167­
68, 172 Parachute assaults: 31,117
New Plei Djereng: 213 Paramilitary units, enemy: 9-10
New Zealand forces: 48 Paramilitary units, Republic of Vietnam.
Newport: 144 See Civilian Irregular Defense
Newsmen: 82 Groups; Popular Forces; Regional
Nguyen Hue offensive: 221-22, 227-28, Forces.
230 Parrot's Beak area: 206
Nha Trang: 25, 86-87, 138 Patrol actions: 60, 73, 75, 81, 95, 113,
Night operations: 88 165, 182
Night operations, enemy: 11, 60, 108, Peers, Lieutenant General William R.:
122-24, 151 118, 194
Nixon, Richard M.: 168, 190, 193, 197 PEGASUS operation: 155-57
Noncommissioned officers: 24, 136 People's Army of Vietnam. See North
Noncommissioned officers, Republic of Vietnamese Army.
Vietnam Army: 25 People's Liberation Armed Force: 9-14.
Nondivisional artillery. See Artillery See also Viet Cong.
units. People's Revolutionary Party: 8, 20
North Vietnamese Army: 9-14, 87-96, Perimeter defense: 39, 54-61, 73-75, 90,
111, 118, 137-57, 166, 182, 196, 205, 93-94, 120-29, 136, 148-57, 165-66
221-25, 228. See also Viet Cong. Personnel management and turbulence:
9th Division: 221
23, 226, 228, 239
304th Division: 156
Philippines Embassy: 144
4th Regiment: 138
Philippines forces: 48
6th Regiment: 138
Photogrammetric survey: 116
18th Regiment: 100-101, 106
Photography, aerial: 116

Phu Chang: 145 Recoilless rifle fire, enemy: 11, 89, 113,
Phu Loi: 73, 75, 106-07, 145^6, 189 122-24, 126- 29
Phuc Long Province: 108 Recoilless rifles: 60
Phuoc Vinh: 75 Recoilless rifles, enemy: 13
Physical training: 39 Reconnaissance
Pike, Douglas: 8 aerial: 68, 116, 124, 187
Piper, First Lieutenant John T.: 109-10 enemy: 148, 165
Platoon program. See Artillery units. by fire: 96, 166
Plei Me: 87, 91-92 ground: 75, 135-36, 148, 155, 160
Pleiku: 87-96, 190, 194 map: 187-88
Political crises: 37 Red River and Delta: 5-6
Political structure Reference points: 70
enemy: 7-9 Refugees, assistance to: 189
Republic of Vietnam: 18-19 Regional Development Program: 138
Popular Forces, Republic of Vietnam: Regional forces, enemy. See Paramilitary
19-20, 169, 190-92, 196, 198, 202, 215 units, enemy.
Population, control of. See Civilians, con­ Regional Forces, Republic of Vietnam:
trol of and support by. 19-20, 169, 190-92, 196, 198, 202, 205,
Power plants: 144 215
Presidential Unit Citation award: 110 Registration procedures: 199-200, 228
Press corps: 82 Reorganization Technique Plan, Repub­
Prey Vang: 207 lic of Vietnam: 204
Prisoners of war, enemy: 30, 84, 89, 91, Repair facilities and parts. See Main­
100-101, 106, 113, 160, 195 tenance and repair.
Provinces and province chiefs: 18-19 Repatriation programs: 110
Republic of Korea forces: 48, 98
Quan Da Special Zone: 201 Republic of Vietnam: 18-20, 138
Quan Loi: 12 Republic of Vietnam Air Force: 214, 218
Quang Nam Province: 17 Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces: 19,
Quang Nga Province: 98 138, 196-97, 203-04, 217, 225
Quang Tri: 138, 155, 222, 224 Republic of Vietnam Army: 48, 82, 89,
Quang Tri Province: 150, 218, 224 98, 110, 140-45, 148, 169,182
Quang Tri River: 148 V Area Logistical Command: 229
Que Chu: 140-41 24th Special Tactical Zone: 194-95
Qui Nhon: 108, 138, 222 3d Airborne Task Force: 155-57
Quirey, Brigadier General William O.: I Corps: 218-19, 227
190-91 II Corps: 100, 190-205
QUYET TONC operation: 157 III Corps: 198-200, 206-15, 221
IV Corps: 207, 226
Racial tensions: 226 I Corps Artillery: 202, 219-20, 225
Radar systems: 179 III Corps Artillery: 200
AN/MPQ-4 countermortar: 11, 116­ 1st Airborne Division: 207, 219, 224
17, 123, 180-81, 232 1st Division: 138-43, 201, 228
AN/TPS-25 ground surveillance: 73, 1st Division Artillery: 201
180, 232 3d Division: 220-22
AN/TPS-58 target-locating: 232 7th Division: 226
Radio communications. See Communica­ 18th Division: 145, 227
tions systems and operations. 21st Division: 227
Radio set AN/GRA-39: 176 22d Division: 100-101, 227
Ranges, artillery pieces. See Artillery 25th Division: 145, 228
weapons, by type. 5th Ranger Group: 143, 145
Recoilless rifle fire: 151 Airborne Brigade: 100, 107
Republic of Vietnam Army—Continued Road system: 27, 107
Airborne Brigade Artillery: 100, 106 Rocket artillery, aerial. See Aerial rocket
138, 196-97, 203-04, 217, 225 artillery.
1st Armored Brigade: 219 Rocket assaults, enemy: 11-13, 68, 70,
3d Brigade, 1st Airborne Division: 210­ 118, 122-24, 138, 145, 149, 156
15 Rockpile area (Khe Sanh) : 150, 153, 155
3d Regiment: 157-60 Rogers, Lieutenant Colonel Charles S.:
9th Regiment: 212 166-67
42d Regiment: 118, 194 Ruses: 100
43d Regiment: 84 Ruses, enemy: 138
3d Battalion, 2d Airborne Brigade: 83
4th Battalion, 2d Airborne Brigade: 83 Saigon area: 18, 21, 25, 37n, 81, 138,
25th Battalion: 35 143-47, 157, 163, 166-69
30th Artillery Battalion: 220-21 Saigon River: 144
31st Artillery Battalion: 222 Sanctuaries, enemy: 92, 205. See also
32d Artillery Battalion: 220 Cambodia; Laos.
33d Artillery Battalion: 220, 222 Sanitation measures: 39
37th Ranger Battalion: 156 Sapper assaults, enemy: 14-17, 122
101st Artillery Battalion: 216 Schaible, Captain Dennis J.: 124-29
104th Artillery Battalion: 229 Schlenker, Captain Leonard L.: 109
221st Artillery Battalion: 192 Seaman, Lieutenant General Jonathan
advisers, relations with: 24-37, 190, O.: I l l
192, 219, 230, 239 Search and destroy operations: 81, 92,
artillery organization and strength: 23, 101, 106-10, 112-17, 156-57. See also
97, 191, 216, 220 Patrol actions; Reconnaissance.
artillery units expansion: 204-05, 218, Searchlights: 73
220, 229 Secretary of Defense. See McNamara,
Associate Battery Program: 193 Robert S.
combat effectiveness and deficiencies: Section chiefs: 133, 136
25, 35-39, 190-93, 195-96, 202-03, Security measures and operations: 11, 19,
214-15, 219-20, 223, 225, 227-28, 230, 39-40, 80, 89, 100, 107-08, 112, 124,
239-40 143, 198, 204, 215, 217, 238
difficulties with commanders: 89 Security measures and operations, enemy:
exchanges, battery personnel: 199 15
instructor training: 201-02, 204, 229 Sensor devices: 179, 181-82, 233
leaders, lack of and training: 25-26, Sentries: 39
31, 203 Separate battalions: 86
organization and strength: 21 Shelling reports: 85
self-sufficiency program: 215-19. See Sihanouk, Prince: 205
also Vietnamization program, Smith, Captain Theodore F.: 35
training programs: 25-26, 134, 190-94, Smoke, tactical use of: 130, 175, 236
198-205, 216-18, 220, 229 Snipers, enemy: 61, 91
weapons deliveries to: 197 Song Be: 108
Republic of Vietnam Marine Corps: 138, Soui Cut: 120-21, 136
224 SouiDa: 107, 112
Reserves, tactical use of: 40 Soui Tre: 113
Resupply. See Supply systems and opera­ Sound-and-flash ranging: 179, 232
tions. South China Sea: 98
Riot control agents: 174 South Vietnam. See Republic of Vietnam.
River Assault Flotilla 1: 76 Southern Plains area: 5-7
Riverine operations: 75-80, 238 Soviet Union: 11, 231
Rivers: 6 Spare parts. See Maintenance and repair.

Special Forces troops: 101, 148, 173, 191,

Task organizations. See Artillery units.

193, 200, 213

Tay Ninh: 107, 112-13, 165, 182, 207,

Special Warfare School: 23


State, Department of: 22

Storage depots: 17
Tay Ninh Province: 106-17

Strategic air support: 45

Tchepone: 218-19

Strategic hamlets program: 20

Terrain, effect on operations: 3-7, 18,

Supply systems and operations: 27, 44,

20, 34, 56-59, 70, 75, 96, 98, 108, 124­
75, 185, 239. See also Airlifts of
25, 130, 132, 236

troops and supplies.

Tests, proficiency: 134

Supply systems and operations, enemy:

Tet offensive: 137-57, 168-69, 193

138, 159-60
Thach Han River: 224

Surut, Lieutenant Colonel Lee E.: 81, 83

Thailand forces: 48, 134

Surveillance. See Reconnaissance.

Thien Ngon: 165

Surveys and survey equipment: 106, 116,

Thien Phuoc: 121

183-84, 199-200, 228, 232

Thieu, Nguyen Van: 37n, 197

Survival training: 39
Thu Dau Mot: 25

Svay Rieng: 207

Thu Due: 144

Sweeps. See Search and destroy opera­ Thua Thien Province: 159

Ti Ti woods: 142

Time-on-target fires. See Fire support.

Tactical air support: 30, 45, 47, 83, 88,

Timmes, Major General Charles J.: 28.

90-96, 100-10, 117-20, 129, 145-47,

See also United States Military Assist­
150-57, 160-61, 167, 210-12, 218-19,
ance Advisory Group, Vietnam.

223, 228. See also Aerial rocket ar­ TOAN THANG operation: 157

tillery; Strategic air support.

TOAN THANG operation 42: 206-15

Tactical Mobility Requirements Board:

Tonle Sap: 6


Training programs: 3, 23-24, 38-39, 45,

Tactical operations center: 48

Tactics: 23, 39-47

81, 87, 96-97, 133-36, 168-73, 231,

enemy: 7-8, 10-11, 14-15, 27, 30-31,

233-34, 238-39

39, 42
enemy: 17

Republic of Vietnam Army: 26-27, 29

Republic of Vietnam: 25-26, 134, 190­
Tam Ky:°121
94, 198-205, 216-18, 220, 229

Tan Son Nhut: 144-45, 179

Training Relations and Instruction Mis­
TanhCanh: 118,222
sion: 22

Tank-gun support: 151

Trang Sup: 200

Target acquisition and designation: 32­ Transportation systems: 51-53

33, 41, 48, 73, 75, 85, 96, 106, 179­ Trien Phong: 224

84, 187, 198, 211, 214, 216, 219, 227­ Troop transport. See Airlifts of troops

28, 231-33
and supplies.

Task Forces
Troop units, artillery. See Artillery Bat­
ALPHA: 86-87
talions; Artillery units.

BAI BAC I (Cannon I) : 192-93

Troop units, general

arrivals and departures: 38, 167-68,

HAY: 169

buildup and reduction: 81, 96, 217,

OREGON: 110. See also Infantry Divi­ 220, 225-30

sions, 23d.
enemy: 9-10

Republic of Vietnam: 21

Trucks. See Motor vehicles.

WARE: 145, 169

Tunnel systems, enemy: 214

United States Air Force: 17, 45, 47, 52,
Viet Cong—Continued

89-90, 94, 108, 113, 148, 179, 200,

350th Division: 10

228, 235. See also Strategic air sup­ 338th Brigade: 10

port; Tactical air support.

22d Training Group: 10

United States Army, Vietnam: 45, 86,

1st Regiment: 100

143, 172, 177, 187, 228.

272d Regiment: 113

See also Abrams, General Creighton

273d Regiment: 146

W.; Westmoreland, General William

V-25 Battalion: 17

C. 514th Battalion: 30

United States Army Support Command, Viet Minh: 8, 10, 21, 27

Vietnam: 86
Vietnamization program: 190, 196-206,

United States Embassy: 37n, 144

214-19, 225-30

United States Marine Corps: 38, 48, 81,

Village Administrative Committee: 19

86, 98, 101, 138-13, 148-57

Village Citizen's Council: 19

Fleet Marine Force, Pacific: 81

Village organization: 19

III Marine Amphibious Force: 86, 149­ Vinh Long: 147

50, 168-69, 201

Vung Tan: 19

3d Division: 155, 201

9th Expeditionary Brigade: 38

1st Regiment: 155-57

Walker, Captain Edward G.: 108

26th Rigment: 155-57

War Zone C: 112-17, 166

1st Battalion, 135th Regiment: 151, 155

War Zone D: 83, 85, 173

Ware, Major General Keith L.: 145

United States Military Assistance Advis­

Warsaw Pact: 231

ory Group, Vietnam: 3, 21-22. See

also O'Daniel, Lieutenant General Washington conference, 1955: 22

John W.; Timmes, Major General Water transportation: 52, 76

Charles J. Waterways: 6

Weapons. See by type.

United States Military Assistance Com­

Weapons losses. See Materiel losses.

mand, Vietnam: 106, 138, 169, 196­

Weather, effect on operations: 7, 34, 101,

97, 202-05, 211, 215, 217-18, 220,

123, 157-59, 224

237. See also Abrams, General

Westmoreland, General William C: 143,

Creighton W.; Westmoreland, Gen­

145, 149, 169, 190. See also United

eral William C.
States Army, Vietnam; United States

United States Navy: 76, 200. See also

Military Assistance Command, Viet­

Naval air and gunfire support; Riv­

erine operations.

Weyand, Lieutenant General Frederick

Unity of command. See Command and C: 143, 145-46

WHEELER operation: 121-24, 181

White phosphorous rounds: 85, 130

Vegetation, effect on operations: 6-7,

WHITE WING operation: 98-110

85,96, 116, 130,236

Williamson, Brigadier General Ellis W.:

Vessey, Lieutenant Colonel John W.:

81, 84-85


Wind cards: 136

Vien, General Cao Vah, Republic of Viet­

Winfield, Colonel Richard M., Jr.: 142

nam Army: 218

Wire communications. See Communica­

Viet Cong: 9, 30-31, 35, 82, 87-96, 106­ tions systems and operations.

11, 117, 120-29, 137, 142, 147, 166,

Wire obstacles: 59, 73

182, 188, 196, 198, 205. See also Peo­

World War II experience: 151

ple's Liberation Armed Force.

250th Training Division: 10

320th Training Division: 10

Xuan Loc: 145, 147




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